Not enough foster carers in Dorset to meet demand

Not enough foster carers in Dorset to meet demand

Published by George Sharpe at 7:52am 18th November 2019.

The number of new foster carers being found in the Dorset Council area is not keeping up with the demand for children looking for a new home.

A report this week says there is now also a concern that while recruiting new foster carers has proved to be a challenge most existing carers are already over 50, some in their 70s.

Figures before the corporate parenting board last week show that of 243 enquiries to become mainstream foster carers between April 2018 and March 2019 only 21 were approved, while over the same period 17 de-registered. Over the same period 49 ‘connected persons’ started the process of fostering for children who were members of their families or close friends, with 19 of them being approved, and two of those closed after approval.

The end of March figures shows that Dorset Council had 144 mainstream foster carers and 53 ‘connected persons’ as foster carers.

foster kid

The county currently has more than 440 children in its care, some of which may eventually be looking for a foster home, while some will return to their own families.

Said the report to councillors:

“Currently the demand for foster carers outstrips supply. Successful recruitment and retention within Dorset is being developed in conjunction with Whitehead Ross, who have been commissioned to recruit a diverse range of foster carers…

“We have concern within the fostering service, that our fostering population is largely made up of people over the age of 50, and is losing experienced carers through retirement.”

Winter coat girl child

The report also concludes that existing fostering families struggle to support children and young people with complex needs, as well as older children and those with behavioural issues.

This is one of the reasons why 140 Dorset children are now being cared for in placements out of the county.

Operations manager for permanency Rebecca Holmes concludes in her report than many factors now make fostering a difficult choice – the need for a secure second income, smaller house sizes, the expectation to return to a career after having your own children and families having children at a later age. There is also the question of the allowances paid and uncertain nature of the work.

“It is a test of a carer’s 24/7 commitment to vulnerable children when you know that there probably is a part-time job just around the corner that will make a meaningful contribution towards the household bills. Just as nurses and care assistants are rethinking their career options, so too are foster carers,” she says.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter