Barnardo's is urging local authorities to work more closely with adoption and fostering agencies to respond to a looming crisis for children in care.The call comes as the charity launches a new drive this week to recruit more foster carers to help address an urgent recruitment target of 8,600 carers nationally.
The number of abused and neglected children in care across the UK has risen for the eighth year in a row. There are now more than 90,000 children in care looking for a replacement family.
This afternoon a House of Commons Select Committee will explore concerns raised by a recent National Audit Office report. The NAO report found that local authorities are spending £2.5 billion for children in foster and residential care. Despite this the Department for Education cannot demonstrate that it is meeting objectives for these placements.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said the situation is now critical. “The care system is under enormous pressure. Budgets are tightening and social work teams are stretched to capacity. Social workers with high caseloads struggle to find the time to provide agencies with enough information to match troubled and vulnerable children with the right foster carers.
“Placements break down quickly when children with problems and complex needs are placed with the wrong family. The children often get returned to their birth families or moved to another set of carers - only to be removed again at a later stage.
“Some children get put on a merry go round of placements which is anything but merry. Each move to a new family distresses the child further and stores up behavioural problems for the future. Moves can also disrupt children’s education and ability to sustain friendships.
“It’s becoming harder to find families for children in care. Two things need to happen to avert a crisis. We need to work together so we can prepare carers better to meet the needs of the children they foster. And we need to look at the changing reasons why children are being taken into care - like sexual exploitation - and plan how we’re going to respond to that."
In the meantime, Barnardo’s is urgently looking for people with patience and commitment to provide a stable home for the most vulnerable children in the UK. To find out more about fostering visit www.barnardos.org.uk/fostering or call 08000 277 280
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