Originally published in the Daily Post
AN EXTRA 550 foster carers are urgently needed in Wales to stop the system hitting crisis point, a leading charity has warned.
The figures, released by the Fostering Network, show the scale of the challenge for services around the country.
Since 2009 there has been a 19% rise in the number of children living with foster families in Wales.
The ages of the people who foster are rising as well. The fostering network says around 14% of the carers retire or leave every year.
Many children who desperately need foster care will sometimes have to be uprooted, because the pressures of the system means placements close to home are not available, severing links with schools, friends and – where space is not available – with brothers and sisters.
Freda Lewis, director of Fostering Wales, said: “These figures are alarming – we could be facing a real crisis when looking to provide the most appropriate care for children who cannot live with their own family.
“All children in care need a family they can grow up with who can love them, be ambitious for them and help them achieve their potential.”
Julie Grindlay is a single carer from Denbigh. She recently received recognition for her 10 years service to fostering with the independent agency Foster Care Associates Cymru North.
Talking about why she went into fostering, she said: “I’ve worked for charities and in schools, but I wanted to do more for children and dedicate more time to them.
She said: “I could work one to one and really see a difference in them, which is why I became a foster carer.”
Julie dismissed fears of fostering when living alone.
She said: “Single carers can offer a lot to a vulnerable child or young person, you just need to have a lot of energy, patience and understanding.
“I enjoy having a house full of children and I know I have lots more to achieve and lots more children to help in the future.
“There are many children who are in need of a stable and caring home environment and I would urge anyone to call FCA to learn more about the challenges and rewards of fostering.”
Glenys and Richard Williams from Penmaenmawr have also been fostering for five years.
“We were both working in a washing machine factory before we took up fostering,” explains Richard.
“We decided to take on the role when our daughters, who foster, told us how rewarding it could be.”
The Fostering Network says an extra 550 foster carers are needed in Wales.
Last October Prime Minister David Cameron launched the Give a Child a Home campaign to encourage adoption and fostering.
At the launch, Mr Cameron said it was “shocking” that only 60 of the 3,600 children under the age of one in care were adopted last year.