Guest blog: Foster care in the North East – increasing the not-for-profit response

In this guest blog post, Sarah Richardson, Fostering Manager at Changing Futures Fostering, tells us about the soaring numbers of young people going into foster care and how we can help.

There is nothing more traumatic for a child and their parents than when a child is taken into care. Sadly, fewer and fewer children can be safely cared for at home. The numbers of children looked after by the state in the North East rose by 12 per cent between 2015 and 2019 (to 78,150). In Durham, Newcastle, Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Stockton, numbers increased between 33 per cent and 72% per cent. In 2018/19, 20 per cent of looked after children were placed more than 20 miles away from their home (DfE statistics on looked after children, 2020).

Increasingly, foster parents find children and young people they foster have a highly complex set of needs due to the trauma experienced prior to coming into care. Some of the top training gaps they identify are therapeutic parenting and attachment (the state of the nation’s foster care 2019, the fostering network).

The proportion of children placed with not-for-profit fostering agencies is tiny at four per cent (with 29 per cent in the private sector). The non-council fostering market is dominated primarily by a few debt-laden (and debt servicing), hedge fund, pension fund-backed agencies with profits peaking at 20 per cent (stats from foster care in England, review for DfE 2018).

Far too many children are living in foster homes hundreds of miles away, or in residential homes, simply because that’s the only option. There’s a critical shortage of local foster parents, and just as crucially, a shortage of foster parents equipped with trauma-informed training and support. Years of cumulative neglect can leave scars that make it difficult for children to trust, love and feel loved, and to feel safe. This can make it difficult to parent them effectively, and difficult to find them a foster family.

What can we do?

As a sector, we need to do what we can to give these children the best possible chance of a brighter future.

Changing Futures Fostering is a new not-for-profit agency owned and set up by Changing Futures North East, a charity with 20 years’ experience helping families thrive. We join a small number of local not-for-profit agencies that invest every pound earned in helping children. We’ve developed training in partnership with foster parents, care experienced children and an experienced therapist. This training enables foster parents to build therapeutic parenting skills and supports them to foster with confidence.

Foster parents are value-driven people who care about children. They’ve a passion to help others and the resilience to stick with it when the going gets tough. If that’s you, or someone you know, perhaps now is the time for you or them to think about fostering. Starting a conversation with a not-for-profit fostering agency would be a great next step.

If you’d like to foster with a value-based local agency or can help us raise awareness of fostering with others who could help change a child’s life, get in touch.

Come along to our online information session to find out more on December 7th at 7pm. You can also call Sarah on 01429 363127 or email sarah.richardson@changingfuturesfostering.co.uk.