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TV SOAP STARS SUPPORT NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO FIND MORE FOSTER CARERS

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Emmerdale starts Dominic Brunt and Kate McGregor are giving their support to this year's national campaign to encou...
Emmerdale starts Dominic Brunt and Kate McGregor are giving their support to this year's national campaign to encourage more people to become foster carers.

Foster Care Fortnight, co-ordinated by national charity the Fostering Network, starts today. Local authorities all over the UK will be holding events to highlight the urgent need for more foster carers and to increase public understanding.

The actors' characters in the soap opera, Paddy Kirk and Emily Dingle, have just applied to become foster carers. The storyline has already sparked interest in fostering.

Kate McGregor said: 'We are delighted to be given such a caring storyline, and to be able to support such a great charity. I didn't realise until now that there was such an urgent need for more foster carers nationally. Hopefully this storyline will encourage people to consider fostering the way that Paddy and Emily have.'

The Fostering Network's Jackie Sanders said: 'It's great that Kate and Dominic are supporting this year's Foster Care Fortnight. Fostering is about providing stability, encouragement and a loving home to children who are temporarily unable to live with their own families.

'Anyone can foster as long as they have what it takes to care for children separated from their own families. There are no age limits, up or down, and single people can foster as well as married or cohabiting couples. Foster Care Fortnight is the ideal time to find out more.'

For more information about becoming a foster carer, members of the public should contact their local authority, call the Fostering Network on 020 7620 6400 or visit www.fostering.net

Foster Care Facts

What is foster care and how does it differ from adoption?

Fostering is a way of offering children and young people a home while their own parents are unable to look after them. This is often a temporary arrangement, and many fostered children return to their own families. Children who cannot return home but still want to stay in touch with their families often live with a long term foster carer.

Adoption is where a new family is provided for children who can no longer live with their own family. An adoption order transfers the child's legal relationship from their birth family to the new adoptive family.

Why do children need fostering?

Foster carers look after children so that families have a chance to sort out their problems. These can range from short-term illness to depression or drug or alcohol abuse. Some children may have been abused or neglected. Social workers work with families to help them sort out problems and make the home a safe place for a child - with the aim that children and parents can be reunited.

Why do we need more foster carers?

On any one day, more than 45,000 children and young people are living with foster families in the UK. Many more move in and out of foster homes during the year. In order to provide these children with the highest standard of care, each one should be able to live witha foster carer carefully chosen to meet their specific needs. To achieve this, we need a large pool of highly-skilled and well-trained foster carers from a wide range of backgrounds.

Who can be a foster carer?

Anyone can apply to be a foster carer as long as they have what it takes to care for children separated from their own families. There are no age limits, up or down, and single people can foster as well as married or cohabiting couples. Some carers have their own children, others don't. It doesn't matter if you are in or out of paid work, or own or rent a house. People of all ethnic origins are needed - children benefit from living with families who share their own culture, language, religion and food.

How do people find out more about becoming a foster carer?

People can contact their local authority's social services department or alternatively the Fostering Network on 020 7620 6400 or info@fostering.net, or see www.fostering.net

Foster Care Statistics

These are the latest statistics available from the relevant government departments in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They provide a snapshot of fostering services on one day of the year. Many more children and young people move in and out of foster homes over the course of 12 months.

England

- 58,900 children were in public care on 31 March 2001

- Two thirds of these children (38,400 or 65 per cent) were living with foster families

- There are approximately 32,000 foster families in England

- Two thirds of children who are fostered return home within six months

Northern Ireland

- 2,414 children were in public care on 31 March 2001

- Two thirds of these children (1,528 or 63 per cent) were living with foster families

- There are approximately 1,200 foster families in Northern Ireland

Scotland

- 6,055 children were in public care away from home on 31 March 2001

- Three quarters of these children (4,475 or 74 per cent) were living with foster families

- There are approximately 2,200 foster families in Scotland

Wales

- 3,574 children were in public care on 31 March 2000

- Three quarters of these children (2,691 or 75%) were living with foster families

- There are approximately 1,850 foster families in Wales

NOTE: new figures on the shortage of foster carers in the UK are being published to coincide with the start of Foster Care Fortnight.

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