Wales needs to find hundreds of foster families in the new year as demand continues to rise, say childcare campaigners.
There has been a 35% increase in children in foster care in Wales over the past decade – with almost 5,000 foster places recorded in 2019.
But the Fostering Network charity said while demand is rising, 13% of foster carers leave the service every year.
It has set Wales a target to recruit another 550 foster families in 2020.
The continuing rise in demand for foster places in Wales mirrors research published by Cardiff University in 2019, showing a 33% increase on spending on children in care since 2010 – an increase of £95.9m.
The latest campaign highlighting the issue is being backed by eight local authorities across Wales, who have joined forces to launch a campaign on New Year’s Day called #20 Reasons.
Real-life foster carers have been taking part – setting out what it has meant for them, and the children they have helped.
They include Tammy Hale from Monmouthshire.
The 36-year-old, who describes herself as a Mary Poppins-type character, decided to become a foster carer seven years ago after trying to start a family of her own.
“I realised that there are so many children that need a loving home and that I had so much love that I wanted to give to a child so it just made sense that this is how we could build our family,” she said.
“We decided that we would be influential people to lots of children that needed our care.”
#20 Reasons to foster
- You can help a child who’s had a difficult past
- You’ll help build positive futures
- You can help a child reach their full potential
- Fostering is amazing and rewarding
- Meet other caring people – just like you
- You can make a difference locally
- Choose which type of fostering is right for you
- Help keep a child in their school
- Develop new skills and gain qualifications
- You’ll make a difference that lasts a lifetime
- It’s a different way to grow your family
- Become part of our fostering community
- You’ll be a positive role model
- Kindness feels good
- Local children and young people urgently need a home
- You’ll help build a child’s confidence
- You can change career
- You’ll give a child a chance in life
- Fostering gives you new perspectives
- You’ll give a child a sense of belonging
Ms Hale added: “I have a really close bond with all of the children that I’ve fostered. One of our foster children is now 17 and doesn’t live with us anymore but still comes over for a Sunday dinner every week.
“Our current long-term foster children even call us mum and dad, and there’s no better feeling than that really.
“I think the first time that little girl called me mum, my heart just absolutely melted – it’s making me emotional just thinking about it now.”
Foster Placements Wales 2009-2019
In addition to the increased number of children needing foster placements, those in the profession say demand is also affected by those leaving the service or retiring.
“It has always been the case that there is a need for more foster carers – it is the nature of the service,” said Nina Kemp-Jones, who is the regional development manager for the National Fostering Framework.
She said often carers were retiring after 30 or 40 years offering their homes to children in need, or had taken the step from fostering to adoption.
“So for some very positive reasons as far the children are concerned, we are losing as many foster carers as we are trying to recruit,” she added.
She said it was also vitally important for local authorities in Wales to be able to recruit local foster care families.
“By having a local person caring, they can help a child keep going to their own school, keep the same friendship group, and be helped to have a positive outcome in their local community.”