The number of children in care is at a 23-year high of 68,110 - a problem that is compounded by these young people having increasingly complex and deep rooted needs.
Our research shows that nearly 70% of service managers are reporting an increase in needs – which includes emotional support – for children who are in foster care. 50% of managers have also seen deterioration in the mental health of children in care within the past 12 months.
We're also witnessing a consistent trend, particularly of children placed within the independent fostering sector, to seek fostering placements, as opposed to residential alternatives, to meet their needs.
Darren Johnson, operational director of children’s placements at Action for Children said: “Not only is there an increase in children coming into the care system, Action for Children is now having to find homes for children who have been traumatised by abuse and neglect. Many have emotional, behavioural and attachment disorders, which they will have experienced either living in residential care or have had multiple placement breakdowns.
“Foster placements are broken down into two categories; standard and therapeutic solo placements. Those children with complex needs should be found therapeutic foster placements, where foster carers have had specialised training to provide the best support available. However, some local authorities are faced with reduced budgets and financial constraints, and are having to make difficult choices leading to decisions that are often cost driven and not needs led. This can have serious implications for the child or young person during their time in the care system.
“The future for children with complex needs will worsen if the benefits of solo therapeutic foster carers are ignored in place of care that produces immediate cost benefits, but fails to give children the help they need.”
A therapeutic foster home is two to three times more expensive than a standard foster home, however a good therapeutic foster carer can have an immediate, positive and lasting impact on the child. Where children with complex needs are put into a standard foster placement, there is a significant increase in the likelihood of a placement breakdown because the carers are not equipped to cope due to lack of properly resourced support, putting an already highly vulnerable child at greater risk of multiple placement moves.
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