Suffolk: 780 children in care as appeal for foster families launched
SUFFOLK: A campaign to recruit new foster carers in Suffolk is aiming to open people’s eyes to the “rewarding and vital” role for all people who can offer a home to a child in need.
In the county, there are 780 children currently in care, 500 of which are living with foster carers and families – and that number is always growing while the needs of the youngsters is ever-changing.
At any one time there are between 15 and 20 children waiting to move to permanent foster families, while others are living in children’s homes, placed for adoption or living at home as part of a rehab plan.
As children’s needs change the type of foster care they require can alter, putting a pressure on Suffolk County Council’s fostering service to recruit a wide range of families to cover emergency placements, short and long-term solutions, people specialising in fostering babies, teenagers as well as sibling groups.
With a shortage of foster carers in Suffolk the authority’s fostering team are urgently looking for at least 30 new foster families this year to ensure they do not have to turn to independent fostering agencies, who can place children outside the county.
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Sue Lowndes, head of fostering at Suffolk County Council, said: “We simply do not have enough foster carers.
“Because so many children are already living with foster families we need to keep finding new foster carers for the new children coming into care and the changing needs of those already in the care system.
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“We have a shortage of all types of carers but in particular those approved for caring for babies and older children.”
At Sidegate Primary School the pupils in this picture massed together to try and highlight just how many children in the county are in care – and even their numbers fell short.
In a bid to encourage more people to consider offering a child a home, the county council’s dedicated team are today gearing up for Foster Care Fortnight – a recruitment drive to open people’s eyes to the opportunities fostering can bring.
A series of events is planned to support the national campaign, run by the charity Fostering Network who estimate a further 10,000 foster carers are needed across the UK.
Mrs Lowndes said in Suffolk her aim is to ensure minimal disruption to children who are being removed from their own families to live with others.
“At the moment there are about 400 approved foster carers in Suffolk, but each year we need at least 30 new families to meet the demand,” she said. “
She said during Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from Monday, May 16 to May 29, the aim is to dispel any myths about fostering.
“We consider applicants from all walks of life, from all backgrounds,” she explained. “All we need is for them to be ready to foster, to be able to commit to the role and have a spare room, as well as being at least 21 years old.
“A lot of our fosters offer short breaks to children and their parents and there are others who offer longer term care.”
She added: “By becoming a foster carer you will make a real difference to the lives of a Suffolk child and their family.”
Matthew Ferrier, deputy headteacher at Sidegate Primary backed the campaign, recognising good foster carers can change children’s lives.
He said: “As a school, we play a significant role in our children’s lives. We always support any organisation that, like us, promotes the care and development and well being of all young people.”
n To find out more about fostering, call the team on 0800 328 2148 or e-mail email@example.com.
n Are you a foster carer and want to tell us your story? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.