More long-term foster families are urgently needed in and around Kirklees so that children throughout our area can enjoy a better quality of life.
That’s the message from Kirklees Council, which needs to find permanent homes for 85 children in their care until they reach adulthood or are able to live independently.
The council has begun a new appeal so those children in need of permanent foster care can settle with one family instead of moving from place to place.
Long-term placements can have massive benefits for the child, keeping them closer to their friends, family and everything they know.
Unlike short-term foster care, where children usually go back to their birth families or are adopted, long-term fostering is used when adoption isn’t appropriate or an adoptive family cannot be found.
Kirklees Council’s long-term fostering team deputy manager Lucy Earnshaw is leading the campaign.
“Despite the success of recent campaigns, which have yielded more foster carers than ever, recruiting enough long-term foster carers remains a key issue,” she said.
The concern is replicated nationally and is due largely to year-on-year increases in the number of children coming into the care system.
In the past five years, Kirklees has seen an increase of new care cases of around 20 per cent.
Lucy said: “Although most go back to live with their birth families or are adopted, around one fifth of all children currently in our care will need to be fostered until they reach adulthood.
“The sad reality is that in many cases, the older the child, the more difficult it is to find them a permanent home. For sibling groups and children with physical, learning or behavioural issues, their chances are further diminished.
“When a child comes into care, they will be going through their own mix of emotions and many will be upset and confused.”
Lucy explained that if children could not be placed within local, long-term foster care, they faced the added upheaval of being moved around – possibly away from their family, school and everything they knew.
“A child won’t necessarily understand why they have to leave their current foster family, only adding to their distress and uncertainty,” she said.
“Experience has shown us that a child who is moved around out of their local area may find it harder to build new friendships and long-standing relationships.
“Compare this to someone who has consistency and stability throughout childhood and is able to maintain links to their local school and community, and they are more likely to have higher self-esteem, achieve better results at school and stand a better chance of growing into confident, successful adults.”
Foster carers receive regular support and opportunities for training and development to give them the skills needed to support children and young people through difficult times.
Lucy added: “Although in some respects long-term fostering can present more of a challenge, most of our carers say that it is the most rewarding, worthwhile job they’ve ever done and we provide ongoing training and support for all our foster carers. It requires a very special person and we need families who are resilient, flexible and won’t give up on a child at the first hurdle.
“In making a commitment to see them through a difficult time in their lives, you are also laying firm foundations – the benefits of which can be seen throughout adulthood.”
Visit www.kirklees.gov.uk/fostering for more information about how you can help make a real difference through long-term fostering.
You can also speak to someone from Kirklees’ fostering team on 0800 389 0086.