The head of a children’s charity in Scotland says he receives daily telephone calls and emails from councils desperate for foster parents for vulnerable children.
Stephen Small, director of the St Andrew’s Children’s Society, an adoption and fostering agency based in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, was speaking at the start of 2019 Foster Care Fortnight, a UK-wide annual awareness campaign run by the Fostering Network.
Mr Small said the charity, which is hosting four events aimed at getting more people to foster, said his charity could only help a “handful” of children in need.
Scottish Government statistics show that 34 per cent of looked after children were fostered in 2018 compared to 28 per cent in 2008. This was a six per cent increase with 4,243 children fostered in 2008 and 5,058 in 2018.
It is estimated that an extra 580 new foster families need to be recruited north of the border this year.
Mr Small said the daily contacts from local authorities made him step up his efforts to find homes for children.
“The person at the end of the line says something like ‘we’ve got this child do you have any foster parents for them?’.
“This is a real human life we’re talking about and what we do next affects their entire future.
“It re-inforces that we have a real gap between very vulnerable families and foster care families and makes me re-double our efforts.”
Mr Small said that local authorities were usually able to provide places for children under the age of four or five but it could be more difficult finding homes for older children including teenagers, some of whom could be perceived as ‘challenging.’
Foster parents currently receive just under £400 a week to care for a child under the age of five and approximately £450 a week caring for youngsters up to the age of 16.
“Some people see fostering as a viable alternative to employment outside the home and it is important that we acknowledge that income and finance are considerations in the decision to foster.
“However, many children are vulnerable and it can be better for them to have a foster carer at home to look after them.”
On Monday Maree Todd, MSP, Scotland’s Children’s Minister, called on more people to consider fostering.
The society’s fostering evenings are at Dundee Science Centre, 20 May; Abbeyview community centre, Dunfermline, 21 May; 7 John’s Place, Edinburgh, 22 May and Aberdeen Arts Centre, 23 May.
BECOMING A FOSTER CARER
You can apply to become a foster carer through local councils, independent fostering agencies or charities.
Different types of fostering include:
* short term - including ‘respite fostering’, when you are giving parents or a child a break from each other.
* emergency - when a child is placed with you with little notice.
* interim - when the child plans to go back to live with their parents but they need to spend some time in foster care or while a permanent placement is being found (under 24 months).
* longer term - when you look after a child for more than 24 months.
* permanent - when the child live with you permanently and you go to court to get a ‘permanence order’.
* you must be a full-time resident in the UK
* aged 18, but some agencies will not let you foster until you are 21 (there is no upper age limit)
* single, in a couple, married or divorced.
* a gay man or woman, either on your own or with your partner or spouse.
* a parent already or not.