Foster care crisis in Suffolk

About 730 children are in care in Suffolk with the majority living in foster care and still waiting for the right family.

Karen Hindle

About 730 children are in care in Suffolk with the majority living in foster care and still waiting for the right family.

Fostering experts in the county say that of that 730 they are looking for placements for 520 children.

The remaining 200 could be in residential placements, placed for adoption, but waiting for the order to go through, living at home as part of a rehab plan, in children's homes, and one or two could even be in hospital.


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This picture of Sidegate Lane Primary School pupils gives you an idea of how many children that is, but even here they are about 80 short.

And the situation is not improving with Suffolk mirroring national trends which are seeing more and more children in care.

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Coupled with these alarming figures is the news that there are not enough carers to help these children and young people - again a situation mirrored across the country.

The EADT has learned that such is the pressure on fostering services that they are having to go outside the county and use independent agencies to place children.

At the moment in Suffolk there are 316 registered foster carers looking after a range of different children, there are also 84 registered Link carers offering respite care to families with disabled children and young people who need a break.

The shortage in Suffolk foster carers reflects a national trend, with the Fostering Network now estimating that a further 10,000 foster carers are needed across the UK.

Sue Lowndes, Head of Fostering at Suffolk County Council said: “We simply do not have enough foster carers and we have a shortage of families for older children, teenagers, disabled children and sibling groups of all ages.”

The shocking figures were revealed as Suffolk County Council's Fostering Service launched Fostering Fortnight in the county - a prolonged recruitment drive to encourage more adults to think about helping these vulnerable children.

This year their targets have been increased and they are looking to recruit 50 carers each year.

Over the course of the next two weeks Suffolk is aiming to address the imbalance with a series of events aimed at supporting the national campaign to raise awareness of fostering in Suffolk.

Mrs Lowndes said: “This year we are aiming to recruit at least another 50 new foster carers to help us with this growing demand and provide more choice of families for children to live with. I am looking forward to seeing interest in fostering for Suffolk County Council grow over this next fortnight.”

John Gregg Suffolk's Service Director, said: “We do a lot of work to support children and their families but when children do need to come into care, a foster family can provide a very valuable alternative that gives children the best chance of a positive future.

“By becoming a foster carer for Suffolk County Council you will make a real difference to the lives of a Suffolk child and their family.

“Foster Carers for the county council receive excellent support, training and advice from both Children's Services and other foster carers, so there is a real network of people to draw help and assistance from.”

To help get this year's campaign underway and to put this situation into perspective, the Suffolk Fostering Service has teamed up with Sidegate Primary School in Ipswich.

Mrs Lowndes said: “This is one of the county's largest primary schools, and if all the children in this school today were to represent the number of children currently in care we can begin to appreciate the number of children who benefit from the Children and Young People's service and the critical role played by foster carers.”

She added: “Although people might find the number of children in Suffolk who are in care surprising, it does reflect the national picture and this is why we feel it is so important to raise awareness within Suffolk about the urgent need to find more families for these children.”

Andrew Waterman, headteacher at Sidegate Primary School said: “In our community today there are children who are going through a difficult time and who need the stability, love and care of a good foster carer.

“I have seen the difference a good foster carer can make to a child's life. Good foster carers support children, give a voice to the child's thoughts and needs. Good foster carers change children's lives.

“Working with children means that every day has its challenges and its rewards, the greatest of which is a smile from a child."

Over the next two weeks the Suffolk Fostering Service will also be having an information stand at various venues around the county where social workers and existing foster carers will be on hand to talk to people about becoming a foster carer. For details of venues please visit: www.suffolkfostering.com and go to the fostering news page.

For more information about fostering visit www.suffolkfostering.com or call 0800 328 2148

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