The government should establish a national campaign to attract foster carers in a bid to tackle the current shortage, the president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) has said.
Giving evidence before the education select committee, which is currently holding an inquiry into fostering, Alison Michalska said more needs to be done centrally to address the lack of high-quality foster carers in the system.
Earlier this year The Fostering Network said 7,180 new carers are needed across the UK to replace those who leave and to increase the pool of carers to be able to provide suitable homes for the diverse range of children coming into care.
A Department for Education-commissioned report into the fostering system published in July found that there was no clear government policy to deal with escalating recruitment problems.
Appearing before MPs, Michalska said: "One of the things government could do is to get behind a national campaign for recruiting foster carers. To actually show the range of skills [required].
"I think that the more we can do to raise the profile of fostering as a worthwhile thing to do and such a valuable service. There could be more national campaigning to raise the awareness and the rewards also of being a foster carer. I think that would be really beneficial."
Labour MP Lucy Powell, former shadow education secretary, said her experience was that foster carers feel unsupported, which can put them off taking on more children and continuing in the role.
"Sufficiency and supply is the key number one issue here," she said.
Also giving evidence, the chief executive of The Adolescent and Children's Trust, Andy Elvin, told MPs that more than a dozen councils are interested in handing over complete responsibility for their fostering and adoption services to his charity, which earlier this year began a 10-year deal worth £126m with Peterborough City Council.
He said "systemic" issues with provision of fostering services are leading more councils to consider taking a similar route.
"There are 12 or 13 local authorities already talking to us about what we are doing in Peterborough," he said.
"The difficulty with fostering and adoption services in most local authorities is they are not the most important thing in children's services. Child protection will always be the most important thing.
"Child protection is what will lose you your job. Sometimes [foster] care isn't optimal, [but] it is very, very rarely dangerous.
"The risk is all in the child protection side. Too many adoption teams and fostering teams are in the backwaters in local authorities. They don't get the care and attention, and they don't get the rigorous management focus that they need to run a good service."
A government-ordered stocktake of the fostering system is currently being undertaken and is due to report its findings to the DfE by the end of the year.
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