Coronavirus: 50 percent increase in children needing foster care

16 June 2021, 09:23 | Updated: 16 June 2021, 10:23

Barnardo's said that the increase has left some children in crisis
Barnardo's said that the increase has left some children in crisis. Picture: PA

By Lillian Keen

The UK's largest children's charity has told LBC the number of children needing foster care has gone up by half during the pandemic.

Many vulnerable children who may have experienced abuse or neglect are facing a crisis as they wait for a foster family, according to Barnardo’s.

Figures from the charity seen exclusively by LBC show in England there were 10,966 unique monthly referrals in the financial year 2019/20, compared to 16,684 in the year 2020/21, meaning that almost six thousand more children have been referred to Barnardo’s services in that time.

“As a society, we are aware that we’ve seen figures on reports of domestic violence increase. So, that has an impact on children within families,” said Brenda Farrell, head of fostering and adoption services at Barnardo’s.

“In relation to mental health and wellbeing, many families haven’t been able to receive support services locally, to support families and parents in caring for children.

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“We’ve had situations where families are becoming homeless because of housing stock and having housing available. So every circumstance is very different.”

She told LBC the most vulnerable in society will feel the longer-term impacts of the pandemic.

“I think everybody's probably feeling a little bit anxious, because we recognise that we need to be prepared that more families will need our support moving forward in the weeks and months ahead," she said.

“Even though the restrictions of this pandemic may cease in the months ahead, there will be longer term impacts for the most vulnerable children and families in our society.”

Andy and Caroline in Kent started fostering a teenage boy for the first time in December 2020.

They told LBC: “The child did come to us before the lockdown and then suddenly we had lockdown at Christmas and for a child to come and stay with us at Christmas and not know anybody - that's tough for both us and the child.”

However, they said that the way the child adapted and grew “fills you with a sense of pride”.

“I think one of the greatest things is to watch his confidence grow,” they said.

“He arrived to us quite timid and quite shy, and he's now out and about making friends. It's amazing to watch and fills you with a sense of pride.”

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They encouraged people who were thinking about fostering to contact Barnardo’s for a “no commitment” chat.

They said: “Anybody that's had an inkling about doing it, give Barnardo’s a ring. It's a free conversation, there's no commitment. It's a very positive world, you're there to help kids."

Barnardo’s said that several thousand foster carers are needed across the UK.

For more information, visit their fostering and adoption page.