Children’s charity faces daily pleas for foster homes from councils

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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.

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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 6 per cent increase with 4,243 children fostered in 2008 and 5,058 last year.

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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.

He said: “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 reinforces 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 receive just under £400 a week to care for a child under the age of five and about £450 a week caring for youngsters up to the age of 16.

Mr Small said: “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.”

Scottish children’s minister Maree Todd has called on more people to consider fostering. The society’s fostering evenings are at Dundee Science Centre on 20 May, Abbeyview community centre in Dunfermline on 21 May, 7 John’s Place, Edinburgh, on 22 May, and Aberdeen Arts Centre on 23 May.