Only a fifth of people interested in fostering apply in North Lincolnshire

More than 100 people in North Lincolnshire expressed interest in fostering children but just a fifth applied to do so, figures show.

More than 100 people in North Lincolnshire expressed interest in fostering children but just a fraction applied to do so.

A nationwide drive for thousands more foster families has been launched as part of Foster Care Fortnight.

Authorities in the area received around 120 initial enquiries about fostering between April 2019 and March last year, but just 25 applications were submitted in that time, the latest Ofsted data shows.

Social media and promotional campaigns have contributed to a growing interest across the UK but attracting and retaining suitable carers who can cope with the complexities of fostering is proving a challenge, experts say.

At the end of March 2020, there were around 135 households opening their doors to vulnerable children in the area, with an estimated 170 youngsters living with foster families.

Of those households, 55 were approved to offer permanent places, with 20 given permission to foster children of family or friends.

But recruitment difficulties and an ageing carer population could be “storing up trouble for the future”, Ofsted has warned.

And the Fostering Network says more than 8,600 more fosterers are needed across the UK to ensure children in care are placed in safe and stable environments suitable for their needs.

Those in foster homes represent more than three-quarters of the area’s 231 looked after children, according to Department for Education statistics.

But experts are calling for more people to come forward to ensure there is a large pool of fosterers diverse enough to meet the needs of a growing care population.

There is also a particular need for foster families able to accommodate sibling groups, teenagers and disabled children.

Within the households approved for fostering in North Lincolnshire there were around 225 carers - 58% aged over 50 - offering up to 290 places for looked after children at the end of March last year.

Figures for 2019-20 also show that 22 children in the area moved between placements at least three times.

Sadie Constable from the Fostering Network said there was a vital need for more people to come forward and provide looked after children with stability and security.

She said thousands of new carers could ensure every child in need of a foster family is placed with people who have the right skills to care for them “at the first time of asking”.

She added: “We know that multiple moves between foster homes once a child comes into care can be destabilising for them, so it’s vital that we have the numbers of skilled foster carers needed to make sure that this doesn’t happen.”

Yvette Stanley from Ofsted echoed the charity’s call for more carers, saying: “While there has been a small rise in foster carers and places over the last year, there still isn’t anywhere near enough to meet demand, particularly given the rising numbers of adolescents needing foster care.

“The difficulty in recruiting carers with the right skills and experience, while making sure they have enough support, and a potentially an aging carer population, is a mix that could be storing up trouble for the future."