The number of children in Wales urgently needing foster care from Barnardo’s Cymru has risen by nearly a third during the coronavirus pandemic, and the charity is appealing for more potential carers to come forward.
From April to December 2020, the number of children referred to Barnardo’s Cymru fostering services in Wales rose by 30 per cent year-on-year, up from 486 to 630.
Barnardo’s says children who may have experienced abuse and neglect are waiting for places with loving foster families.
Without more potential foster carers coming forward, hundreds of children referred to Barnardo’s will not be placed with a family.
The UK’s leading children’s charity believes the pandemic and lockdowns have increased pressure on vulnerable families, with job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health all leading to family breakdown.
Children have also been in lockdown in homes where domestic abuse and sexual abuse are taking place. These pressures will likely impact more families as the pandemic continues.
Barnardo’s is releasing figures as part of a fostering week campaign, which runs from January 25. The charity is calling on people over 21, who have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child to consider fostering a child.
People like Brian and Helen Harrison of Bridgend who began fostering four years ago. Brian chose to become a full-time foster carer at the age of 60, after working in the care sector and with young people. Helen still works in nursery education.
Although they both have backgrounds ideally suited to fostering they say having such extensive experience isn’t necessary and listening skills and patience are the most important attributes for a foster carer.
Brian said: “You need patience, resilience and you need to listen to the child. Their behaviour is a reflection of the trauma they have been through, you cannot judge them for it.
“We get our reward when we see a child’s true personality emerge, when we see them making friendships, perhaps for the first time, and see the joy they discover in those friendships.”
Barnardo’s welcomes foster carers from all walks of life, including single people, those from the LGBTQ+ community and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
The charity provides full training and supports foster carers every step of the way. Financial support including carers’ allowance is also available.
Barnardo’s Adoption and Fostering Operations Manager Martin Kaid said: “Without extra foster families coming forward some children will find themselves living a long way from their family, school and friends, being split up from brothers and sisters, or being matched with a foster carer who might not have the relevant skills and experience to meet their specific needs.
“We particularly need carers for sibling groups and children with additional needs. We are calling on people who think they have the right skills and experience and who can provide a secure loving family unit to come forward. By becoming a foster parent you could change a child’s future.”
Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: “Vulnerable families have been hit hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic, with many reaching crisis point. This means more children than ever need a safe and loving foster family to care for them.
“Barnardo’s has more than 100 years’ experience bringing vulnerable children together with loving foster families, who provide the vital love and support children need to thrive.”
To find out more about fostering with Barnardo’s, go to https://www.barnardos.org.uk/foster or call 0800 0277 280.