The pressures of contemporary life see more and more children end up in care. But, as a society, we still seriously underestimate the numbers involved.
In a recent survey we carried out, we asked people, “how many children are in foster care in the UK?” People reckoned that around 27,000 children are in foster care. In fact, the actual number is nearer 55,000. And that’s growing every year.
Putting foster families under pressure
This growing demand for foster care puts Britain’s foster families under increasing pressure. Although 90% of people realise the number of children in foster care is growing, they’re unaware of all the commitment involved.
The survey found that almost half of active foster parents have given homes to more than five foster children, while 22% of foster parents have cared for more than 10 different youngsters.
What makes someone decide to foster?
With the need for more carers so clear, we also surveyed foster parents to see why they got involved in the first place. Nearly a third of foster parents said that their own life experiences encouraged them to provide care and support to children. But the primary motivation for carers is “to give children and young people a secure family environment.”
Fostering benefits everyone
Foster carers also explained that they don’t just foster for altruistic reasons. More than 25% of foster carers have learned new life skills and their own birth children flourish too “It’s made my birth children more understanding and accepting of complex emotional needs”.
Other carers feel their families have learnt the value of teamwork, increasing their empathy and becoming more appreciative of life – “It has certainly made our children realise how lucky they are”.
Fostering works and fostering lasts
Fostering can help give children the secure environment they need to succeed in school and flourish in later life. Fostering matters in the moment and creates long-term bonds too. The survey revealed that 86% of foster parents are still in touch with the children they cared for.
It’s made my birth children more understanding and accepting of complex emotional needs.
Foster care awareness varies by region
People in different parts of the UK have diverse perceptions when it comes to fostering. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, for instance, people have a much more realistic appreciation of the number of children in foster care than they do in the South East of England.
Although awareness may vary, there’s a consistent need for foster carers across the country, which is one of the reasons why Compass Fostering maintain a nationwide presence for foster care in the UK, with offices throughout England & Wales.
Why aren’t more people fostering?
Many people in our survey agreed they’d be open to fostering. But what’s stopping us? Foster families come in all shapes and sizes these days. Fostering is no longer restricted to conventional family models. And 20% of us say we know a close friend or family member who has been fostered.
All you need to foster is a secure home environment to offer and the commitment to make a lasting difference in a child’s life. People who think they might not be accepted as foster parents could be in for a pleasant surprise…
Want to learn more about the numbers? Read Foster Care by Numbers: the Statistics and Their Meaning.