Shortage of foster parents

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The UK is facing a shortfall of over 10,000 foster parents, due in part to a rise in the number of babies and toddlers being taken into care following the Baby P case, a fostering charity has warned.

According to the Fostering Network, teenagers and children under the age of four are the two age groups most in need of foster carers. But councils have seen a rise in the number of children of all ages being placed in care.

"Local authorities and fostering services have been getting better at recruiting foster carers, but in the last couple of years we've seen a significant increase in the number of children coming into care and that's meant that there is urgent need for people to come forward," said Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network. "Baby Peter and the debate about the threshold for when children should come into care is likely to have had an effect. We're also seeing more children of all ages coming into care so there are other factors as well; the court judgement which means local authorities are more likely to have to take teenagers into care when they're homeless."

The organisation estimates there is a shortage of 8,200 foster families in England, 750 in Wales, 1,700 in Scotland and 200 in Northern Ireland. While the Scottish figure appears disproportionately high, it includes children already in care who the Fostering Network claims are placed with too many other children.

The Fostering Network's research, published today as part of Foster Care Fortnight, showed eight out of 10 local authorities saw a rise in the number of children needing foster homes in the last 12 months.

"Foster carers need to be very well supported and levels of pay makes a big difference. If that were significantly increased it would make it possible for more people to be foster carers," Tapsfield said.

Around 53,000 children in the UK are living with 43,000 foster families.