Nearly 200 people interested in fostering in Hertfordshire but only a fraction apply

Hertfordshire County Council is appealing for more foster carers to help make a difference

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 10:36 am
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 10:38 am

Nearly 200 people in Hertfordshire expressed interest in fostering children but just a fraction applied to do so, figures show.

A nationwide drive for thousands more foster families has been launched as part of Foster Care Fortnight.

Authorities in the area received around 195 initial enquiries about fostering between April 2019 and March last year, but just 30 applications were submitted in that time, the latest Ofsted data shows.

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Social media and promotional campaigns have contributed to a growing interest across the UK but attracting and retaining suitable carers who can cope with the complexities of fostering is proving a challenge, experts say.

At the end of March 2020, there were around 435 households opening their doors to vulnerable children in the area, with an estimated 500 youngsters living with foster families.

Of those households, 135 were approved to offer permanent places, with 45 given permission to foster children of family or friends.

Hertfordshire County Council is appealing for more foster carers to help make a difference

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “Some people who express an interest in fostering with us may not progress immediately, but often come back to us when the time is right for them.

"In this last year, we have recruited 54 foster carers. However, we have approximately 975 children in our care so we are still in desperate need of more foster carers.

"Our foster carers are from all walks of life, there is no perfect person we look for. They are ordinary people who do an extraordinary thing - they make a difference to a child’s life.

"However, we need more foster carers to help make that difference."

But recruitment difficulties and an ageing carer population could be “storing up trouble for the future”, Ofsted has warned.

And the Fostering Network says more than 8,600 more fosterers are needed across the UK to ensure children in care are placed in safe and stable environments suitable for their needs.

Those in foster homes represent more than two-thirds of the area’s 948 looked after children, according to Department for Education statistics.

But experts are calling for more people to come forward to ensure there is a large pool of fosterers diverse enough to meet the needs of a growing care population.

There is also a particular need for foster families able to accommodate sibling groups, teenagers and disabled children.

Within the households approved for fostering in Hertfordshire, there were around 735 carers - 72 per cent aged over 50 - offering up to 765 places for looked after children at the end of March last year.

Figures for 2019-20 also show that 102 children in the area moved between placements at least three times.

Sadie Constable from the Fostering Network said there was a vital need for more people to come forward and provide looked after children with stability and security.

She said thousands of new carers could ensure every child in need of a foster family is placed with people who have the right skills to care for them “at the first time of asking”.

She added: “We know that multiple moves between foster homes once a child comes into care can be destabilising for them, so it’s vital that we have the numbers of skilled foster carers needed to make sure that this doesn’t happen.”

Yvette Stanley from Ofsted echoed the charity’s call for more carers, saying: “While there has been a small rise in foster carers and places over the last year, there still isn’t anywhere near enough to meet demand, particularly given the rising numbers of adolescents needing foster care.

“The difficulty in recruiting carers with the right skills and experience, while making sure they have enough support, and a potentially an aging carer population, is a mix that could be storing up trouble for the future."