Almost 500 extra foster carers are needed in the East of England according to an independent fostering agency.
But if more people knew that single people could also be carers, that figure could drop dramatically.
A report commissioned by Five Rivers Child Care reveals that almost 30% of people across the East of England are unaware that single people can foster, which could negatively be impacting foster carer recruitment at a time when demand is greater than ever.
There are a record 69,000 children in care living with around 55,000 foster families in the UK, and in the East of England alone another 480 foster carers are needed. With recent data showing that there are almost 700,000 single person households in the East of England, it would take less than 1% of this figure to meet the current shortfall in this area.
Barbara Carriman, 47, from Luton, has been a full-time foster carer with Five Rivers Child Care since August 2020. Before fostering, Barbara worked extensively in education in both pastoral care and with family services. With Five Rivers, Barbara specialises in parent and child fostering, which involves looking after a parent and their baby with the aim of keeping them together as a family unit, where possible, and to help the parents develop the skills they need to look after themselves and their little ones.
Reflecting on her experience as a single foster carer, Barbara says: “Fostering is something that I’d thought about a lot, I just didn’t think I’d qualify on my own. But I’ve always been a maternal person, I’ve had four children myself and after my third moved out it just felt right to open my home to someone who needed it.
“I knew that helping parents was something I could do, I’ve been able to combine all the skills I’ve picked up raising my own children and working with vulnerable people to now put all my efforts into providing comfort for youngsters who need it. I’ve done a lot of different jobs in my time, but fostering is definitely the most rewarding and I think doing it as a single person makes it even more so. Of course it can be challenging at times, but as long as you’ve got the right support system you’ll never feel alone. Five Rivers has been brilliant at providing training, especially when I was first finding my feet as a foster carer.
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions out there about who can and cannot foster, but for anyone who is considering it, I would really encourage them to explore the idea further. I’m so glad I enquired because I’m now doing something I’m genuinely passionate about – I just wish I’d started sooner.”
Martin Leitch, head of fostering operations at Five Rivers Child Care, said: “At a time when we’re already in need of thousands of safe homes for children living in the UK, world events have drastically increased the need and urgency of finding foster carers for children and young people. We’re encouraging single people to consider fostering. Someone’s marital or relationship status, gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity does not stop them providing excellent care to a child in need.
“It’s also extremely important to us that we have foster carers from different backgrounds and communities to reflect the diversity of the children in the care system. Today, there is national shortage of more than 8,500 foster carers but we will continue to see this number increase over the next year, and beyond.
“Fostering comes in many forms and can be tailored towards the needs and lifestyle of the foster parent, or parents, and those in their care. Foster carers can work flexibly as respite or short-term foster carers, or they can have foster children and young people living with them long-term, meaning they would remain in care until they feel ready to live independently. If you’re a kind, compassionate individual and would like to get some more information and discuss the different types of fostering, please do get in touch. You will not be committed to taking on a placement at any stage of the process.
“To be considered, you must be 21 years of age and have the key qualities needed to look after children in care. This includes single people, co-habiting couples, same sex couples and people living in rented accommodation, but there must be a spare room for each foster child.”