Saturday, 16 May 2009

Care crisis looms as two thirds of foster parents near retirement

A crisis in the care system is looming with two thirds of foster parents being near or beyond retirement age, a charity warns today. It found that 65 per cent of foster carers were aged 50 or over. The average age of a foster mother is 53 compared with 46 a decade ago.
Only six per cent of the 72,000 foster carers are in their thirties; 38 per cent are in their fifties and 24 per cent in their sixties. While there is no upper age limit, most give up at retirement age.
In March 739 care applications were submitted to the family courts the highest recorded. In October 2008 there were 496. This was the month before the Baby Peter case came to light, making social workers more wary of taking risks with cases.
The Fostering Network, which compiled the report, said much more must be done to encourage younger people to take up fostering.
Local authorities and fostering agencies must audit their own foster care workforce to see how great the problem is, and target recruitment at people in their twenties and thirties, it said.
Families must provide a separate bedroom for a foster child so foster carers are typically couples whose children have just left home. Far more parents are now in their fifties before their children are finally off their hands.
More than 70 per cent of the 60,000 children in care live with foster families rather than in residential care, so that renewing the workforce is crucial for the future of the system.
There is already a shortage of 10,000 foster carers in Britain, meaning that children end up being placed anywhere that there is a vacancy rather than with the best family for their needs.

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