A SHORTAGE of foster carers is prompting Fostering Devon, Devon County Council’s in-house fostering service, to call on people to consider fostering for children in care.
The current shortage is for children between the ages seven to 18 and for those with more challenging behaviours, says the council.
Last year’s remodelling of the Council’s service, Fostering Devon, included a significant rise in allowances paid to foster carers as well as additional support and training for carers.
This has resulted in an increase in the number of foster carers registered with Fostering Devon, but with more than 700 children currently in the care of the local authority, the council is always recruiting for more foster carers.
In addition to mainstream foster carers who provide, what might be termed, 'traditional' care, the service is looking for people who can care for young people between eight and 15 years old who have challenging and complex behaviours, and whose needs can not be met by traditional fostering.
Such young people require specific care programmes for their educational and psychological requirements.
The Council's Family Care Workers Scheme was developed by the Council some years ago to help children like these find safe places to live, in supportive and stable families, where their behavioural difficulties can be minimised.
The scheme was improved last year to include additional support and enhanced payments for Family Care Workers.
Due to the challenging nature of their work, Family Care Workers are expected to be at home at all times to allow relationships to develop that can support the young person, reducing the likelihood of more serious behavioural difficulties, and minimising the risk of placements breaking down.
Dave West, a Family Care Worker registered with Devon County Council, says: "You might not see overnight change, but if you keep working with children, it does have an affect in helping them become better teenagers and adults as a result."
Carers for children across the board are required, says the Council. The more carers they have, the better the chances of finding a good match between child and carer, providing the right home, in the right location, and therefore increasing the child’s placement stability.
Councillor James McInnes, the Council's Cabinet Member with responsibility for the fostering service says: "The Fostering Devon service has grown a lot in recent years. We have more foster carers available to provide long term care as well as emergency or respite care, but we will always want more carers to give us the flexibility to enable us to provide suitable matches.”
Care leaver, Rosie Connor in Exeter, says the stability of the fostering placement is vital.
When she was first placed in foster care 11 years ago, there were insufficient numbers of long term foster carers available, and she spent time with multiple short term or emergency placement foster carers.
"It wasn't until I settled with a long term foster carer that my situation began to improve," says Rosie, who is now studying for a degree in Education at Plymouth University.
"My foster carers were excellent and without their kindness and support, I wouldn't be the person I am today."
"We hear that a lot," says Cllr McInnes. "The carers we have are spectacular people, providing life-changing opportunities for children in our care. We're grateful to them and encourage others to consider finding space in their lives to do the same."