The Fostering Network is calling on people across the North East to consider becoming foster carers, given the need for a further 450 new families across the region this year.
The call comes with the launch of the charity’s annual Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from today, and is supported by the results of a new survey showing that two in five fostered teenagers are already living with their third foster family since coming into care.
The survey, covering more than 1,600 fostered children and young people across the UK, also found that: one in four fostered teenagers are living with at least their fourth family in care; one in six fostered teenagers are living with at least their fifth family in care; and one in 20 fostered teenagers are living with least their 10th family in care.
The findings highlight the need to find more people who are willing and able to foster teenagers. There is also a real need for more foster families to offer homes to siblings and disabled children.
The survey also found that almost one in three of children aged five to 10 are currently living with at least their third family in care, with one in five living with at least their fourth family in care.
There are currently 3,340 children and young people living with foster families in the North East.
Being moved from home to home can have a hugely detrimental effect on children’s education, wellbeing and ability to make and maintain relationships. Not being able to find the right foster carer also means that children too often have to live a long way from family, friends and school and are split up from their brothers and sisters. Finding the right foster carer, at the outset of a child’s journey in care, can lead to stability, improved relationships and a positive experience of childhood.
Carla, 23, was taken into care at the age of 12 and had around eight foster homes before moving in with the Randalls.
“My most poignant memory of being in care is probably the first day I went to the Randalls’ house,” she said. “I compared the house to a palace and I literally jumped up and down when no one was looking. I can remember exactly what everyone was wearing, my foster mum’s smile and what we had for dinner, which I was allowed to choose.
“My foster mum was kind and she knew I was scared. That night she came into my bedroom in the middle of the night where I lay on top of the bed awake and reassured me that I could get under the covers and make myself comfortable. From then on it wasn’t all rainbows and smiles, it took a lot of hard work and understanding on their part to make me feel secure and trust that things would work out.
“Looking back now I realised that the Randalls saved my life. I never understood the extent of the neglect and abuse I had endured until I came to live with a ‘normal’ loving family. They were just always themselves, the smallest details meant so much to me. They nurtured a young, angry, untrusting teenager to become a positive, empathetic and successful young woman.”
Cindy, a foster carer who has fostered teenagers for three years, said: “When we were asked what our preference would be when we started fostering, I replied, a young person who needs a family. We found ourselves gravitating towards teenagers because all young people face challenges, but I find the teenagers more independent thinking and engaging, and navigating through the teenage years is bumpy but great fun.
“I have enjoyed shopping, listening to music, and going to theme parks. Fostering teenagers means we never get to grow old. Life is so much more fun having them in our life, and we learn as much from them as they learn from us.”
Jackie Sanders, director of The Fostering Network, said: “As each year passes, we see more and more children coming into care. We need people who can open their heart, and their homes, to vulnerable children and young people and use their skills to help support them to reach their full potential. In particular we need people who have the skills, patience and passion to look after teenagers who may have had a really tough time and be facing some real challenges, and to offer them love, stability and security.
“Fostering services across the North East are working hard to recruit and support foster carers with the right skills so that each child who needs it can have the home and family they need and deserve.”
Find out more about fostering, and supporting children in foster care and foster carers, by visiting fostering.net