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“State of emergency” in foster care, charity warns

Barnardo’s has warned of “state of emergency” in the fostering sector as the number of children requiring foster care during the coronavirus pandemic has soared while the number of people seeking to become foster parents has plummeted.

The number of children needing foster care has risen by 44% during the pandemic yet the number of people looking to become foster parents fell by nearly half compared to the same period last year, according to the children’s charity.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “The coronavirus pandemic has hit vulnerable families the hardest, with many reaching crisis point. This has created a state of emergency, as more children than ever need a safe and loving foster family, while fewer adults are coming forward as potential foster carers.”

Between March 1st and April 23rd 2020, there were 2,349 referrals to Barnardo’s fostering services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, rising from 1,629 for the same period in 2019. At the same time, the number of enquiries from people looking to become foster parents for the charity fell from 302 to 161 – an alarming fall of 47%.

Barnardo’s says this has created a ‘state of emergency’ as children who have potentially experienced abuse and neglect wait for places with foster families. Without more potential foster carers coming forward, hundreds of children referred to Barnardo’s will not be placed with a family.

The charity believes that the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has increased pressure on vulnerable families, with job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health all leading to family breakdown. Children have also been in lockdown in homes where domestic abuse and sexual abuse are taking place. These pressures will likely impact more families as the crisis continues – something WillisPalmer has been raising concerns about for months.

Barnardo’s is calling on people over 21, from all walks of life, who have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child to get in touch and consider fostering a child. The charity also wants to make it clear that foster carers will be supported every step of the way by Barnardo’s, and will also be eligible for financial support including carers’ allowance.

Javed Khan added: “Barnardo’s has over 100 years’ experience bringing vulnerable children together with loving foster families, who provide the vital love and support children need to thrive. If you become a foster carer with Barnardo’s we will support you every step of the way with training and a dedicated social worker. You’ll also receive financial support, including a carer’s allowance.

“Today, there are hundreds of children who have been referred to Barnardo’s and are waiting to be placed with a foster family. If you’re over 21, have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child in need, please do consider getting in touch today.”

To find out more about fostering with Barnardo’s, visit the website or call 0800 0277 280.

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