Foster carers are at the heart of our care system and carry out an invaluable role on behalf of society. They are on the frontline of looking after vulnerable children who are unable to live with their own families. The love and support offered by foster carers can transform the lives of the children in their care and help them overcome difficult early life experiences.
Below are just some examples of what children and young people have told us about their experiences of foster care as part of our #changingthenarrative campaign:
"The best thing is having a dad in my life that is there for me, but also having a mum love you unconditionally when you aren't even her daughter."
"I worried all my life about going into foster care, but now I am here I am much happier."
"When I was at home, things were totally different. I didn't really do anything at all. I didn't feel like anyone cared. I've got someone to rely on now."
"I've decided that I want to be a foster carer because foster care has made such a big difference to my life."
"They make me feel safe and part of a family."
Good fostering is about all of these things combined. First and foremost, it's about providing children with a safe, stable, loving family home.
The overwhelming majority of children in our care are in foster placements. Many children and young people across the country are cared for by loving, dedicated foster carers from a different background to them, this includes foster carers who have opened their homes and hearts to unaccompanied asylum seeking children living in the UK. It was heartwarming to read an article in the Guardian recently which highlighted the love, stability and dedication Muslim foster carers provide to the children they care for. This is the picture across the board.
There is currently a shortage of foster carers - the Fostering Network estimates that over 5,900 new foster families are needed in England to meet current demand. As the number of children in our care increases, so too does our need for foster carers from all walks of life. We all have a responsibility to change the narrative around care and build the reputation of fostering to encourage a more diverse mix of people to come forward.
Local authorities are investing in local and regional recruitment campaigns to encourage more people with the right skills and dedication to come forward so that all children in need of a foster placement get the support they need. For some time, ADCS has been calling for a national foster care recruitment campaign to recruit more foster carers from a range of backgrounds who can meet the needs of the cohort of children in care. A larger pool of foster carers will lead to greater placement choice and greater placement stability - this can only be a good thing for children.
Alison Michalska is ADCS president and DCS in Nottingham City. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website