Foster care has existed in some form or other for over a century but why do some children need to live with a family other than their own birth parents or families? What is the current situation in Scotland as regards to children needing a foster home?
There are many reasons why children are taken into care – some of it is not easy reading – but there is a network of trained and caring foster carers in Scotland willing to open their homes and lives to vulnerable children.
Why are children taken into care?
Taking a child into care, removing them from their birth parents or other family members, is usually the last step of many interventions, support and help a family will have received.
There are also times when children are removed because their immediate safety – physical and/or emotional – is at serious risk.
In Scotland, the latest statistics suggest that the two main reasons that social services take the big step of removing children from their families are abuse and neglect.
Abuse comes in many forms including physical, emotional and sexual or a combination of these. It may not be that the parents are the perpetrators but if they are failing to protect their children, they will be considered to be at serious risk of harm.
Likewise, neglect takes different forms and, according to statistics recently released in Scotland, was increasingly reported to the Scottish Children’s Reporter, the non-governmental department responsible for protecting children at risk.
Bucking the trend
It paints a dim picture of the looked after system in Scotland but the situation is bucking the national trend. For example, in England, the numbers of children taken in care has been steadily rising for the last few years.
In Scotland, the number of children taken into care is declining, with a drop of 3% during the year 2016 to 2017 – and has been declining for some years and is expected to continue.
And yet, permanency orders, the court order that confirms a child is to stay in foster care until they reach adulthood, have increased by 4%.
And so it seems that Scotland has the balance in check. With plenty of frontline family services in place to support families, when the decision is made to protect children by removing them from their families, it is the right decision, freeing them from continuing risk and harm.
More foster carers needed
But more foster carers are needed. Currently, there are over 4,000 foster care households registered in Scotland with nearly 5,500 foster children.
Of these, just over a quarter will live with their foster families until adulthood as they have permanency orders granted.
Overall, there are just over 1,000 children who have removed from their birth parents and live in the looked after system but not with foster carers.
And this is why more foster carers are needed. Add to this retiring and de-registering fostering households, you can see why a shortfall exists.
And there is one particular foster placement type that is lacking in Scotland – fostering households who are able to offer sibling foster care. Unfortunately, 20% of siblings are split upon foster placement.
Foster care is an integral part of the social care system of any country. Could you provide high-quality foster care for a child or children who need it most?
Foster Care Associates Scotland are currently recruiting foster families. Do you have the outlook and the commitment needed to care for a foster child?
This is a collaborative post.