‘Desperate’ need for foster carers revealed as data shows scale of shortfall
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Suffolk desperately needs more foster carers, experts are warning as it’s revealed hundreds are required to plug a “massive” shortfall.
Lucy Stevens, fostering and development manager at Eastern Fostering Services, claims our region needs an additional 700 carers to meet demand.
Requests for foster carers have soared by 42% since 2016 according to the company’s internal data for Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire – and in the same year, 62% of those referrals came in more than once.
And Ms Stevens, a foster carer herself, warned of such a significant gap that vulnerable children are being sent to other counties.
“Many children are being moved out of county, away from all that is familiar to them, often at a time of great personal loss,” she revealed.
“There is currently a massive shortfall in the number of carers available to meet this increasing need.
“It’s a real issue and all areas of the region, including Suffolk, desperately need more foster carers.
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“We mainly deal with Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire and we estimate approximately 700 carers are needed to fill this gap.
“To quote one local authority, ‘We have never known it so bad’.”
There are more than 850 children currently in care in Suffolk, according to county council chiefs.
However, the authority only has 274 foster carers.
It has the largest fostering service in the county, but bosses say they urgently need more carers for teenagers, children with disabilities and sibling groups from five years and over.
A council spokesman said it is hard to quantify the number of carers needed – as they always need more than they have, to support with respite care and carers retiring.
The Suffolk Fostering and Adoption service’s target for this year is to recruit 25 placements for those aged 11 and over.
However, the spokesman said placements for teenagers are the hardest area to recruit, alongside siblings and placements for children with complex needs.
Bosses also said the council does not have out-of-county foster carers or placements themselves.
If they do not have a placement for a child internally, they will go to an agency who then place the children.
It is then the agency who may choose to place children out of the county, the council spokesman added.
However, representatives for the authority also said sending children out of county is not a preferable option, as it takes youngsters away from support networks and can disrupt school placements.
Cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills Gordon Jones added: “We are committed to offering high quality support to secure a positive future for children through fostering and adoption and our priority is finding families for those children most in need.”
Experts at Eastern Fostering Services are hosting an information evening to dispel myths about fostering next month.
Those interested in signing up should visit their office at Unit 1E The Gattinetts, Hadleigh Road, East Bergholt, on Wednesday, November 7 from 10.30am to 12.30pm.
For more information, visit the Suffolk Fostering and Adoption website.