SEVEN out of 100 children in the North East are currently living in foster care – but hundreds more are in urgent need of a safe home.
There were 3,599 children in care in the region at the end of March 2020, according to the Department of Education. A new report will be released at the end of March 2021, but fostering agencies’ figures have already shown a huge increase in the demand for services due to the pandemic.
There has been an increase of over 44 percent, according to Barnardo’s, one of the biggest fostering agencies in the UK. At the same time, the number of potential carers has plummeted by 47 percent, creating a real emergency.
Louise Bagshaw is a recruitment social worker for Foster Cares LTD, a family run agency based in the North East. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they have been working tirelessly trying to recruit potential foster carers.
Mrs Bagshaw said: “Every day more and more children are referred and in urgent need of a safe home. We have seen a huge increase since the beginning of the pandemic, mostly due to a change of circumstances for parents, who are now not able to financially support their children. We are looking for people, singles or couples, with a spare bedroom that would be able to offer a child that safe place that they desperately need right now.”
Agencies are urging people to come forward, especially those who can see fostering as a new career.
Andrea is a foster mum from Sunderland, and has been doing this job for six years with her husband. Since then, they have looked after over 20 children for Foster Cares LTD.
Andrea said: “After making this decision, we looked for a local agency that could be there all the way for us, as you will need that 24/7 support. It has been the best decision we have ever made. I think any foster carer must have courage, lots of love to give, and an open mind. There is a lot of stigma about older kids, and those are the ones that often struggle to find a place. We now have three older children and they have been amazing. So I would just say to people, please give older kids a place and hope.”
These are often the children most traumatised, as foster mum Helen confirms: “We cannot look at their chronological age as sometimes this doesn’t coincide with their development age. So we can have 15 or 16 years old that have the maturity of a 10 years old. When you are a foster parent you will see things that you never imagined before. But there is a common ground: these children want to feel protected, they want to be nurtured because they have never had that before.”
There is no recipe for the perfect foster parent, but the experience of others can help light the way for those considering helping these children. It’s no coincidence that the popular movie Shazam was based around a loving foster family, whose motto is: I’m a foster parent – what’s your superpower?
As Helen said: “Being a foster parent requires resilience, as there will be difficult times; you need to have a lot of patience and never be judgemental. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing these children gaining confidence every day and learning that it is their right to be loved.”