Children & Young People Opinion

The pandemic has increased the demand for foster care placements

Neil McMillan, Head of Community Services at Kibble

As I write this it is currently Foster Care Fortnight, a time spent highlighting the need for foster carers and celebrating all that they do. This year it is more important than ever that we spend time speaking about foster care, ensuring that we have enough families to meet care demands following the pandemic.

We know that the lockdown, school closures, and concerns over jobs and finances, are putting increased pressure on families. A recent Scottish Government report highlighted that the number of vulnerable children will increase because of such pressures with young people at risk of harm and neglect. The UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, Refuge, reported a 700% increase in calls to its helpline in a single day and sadly the longer this goes on, the worse it becomes.

However, Child Protection Committees Scotland (CPC Scotland) has reported a reduction in child protection reports across the board, whether via referrals to social work, or reports to police, health professionals, charities or voluntary organisations. These referrals are usually made by schools and health professionals, so with schools closed and children confined at home they are not coming into contact with the professionals who normally raise protection concerns.

Without these safeguards in place, there are also fears that children already known to be vulnerable are becoming less visible. The government had hoped to keep them in emergency schools, making places available for them alongside children of key workers, but attendance so far has been low, with as few as 5% turning up in some places. As the lockdown continues, pressures on vulnerable families will increase and at the other side of this pandemic I believe there will be a tremendous amount of demand for child protection and for mental health services, and correspondingly places of safety for children and young people.

Kibble has been providing a specialist foster care service for the last 15 years. Now, a combination of an impending recession, expected to be worse than the 2007/08 global financial crisis, and child protection concerns means that we need to grow our service. Despite the CPC indications that there has been a downturn in child protection referrals, I can assure you there is still a huge demand for foster carers at Kibble and across the UK. Our vulnerable children and families have needed us more than ever and while we’ve seen so much come to a halt during lockdown, our services have been ramped up.

We have seen a surge in altruism during this pandemic with more than half a million people volunteering to support the NHS. Numerous acts of reported and unreported kindness are taking place across the globe. At this time, I am imploring people to consider whether they could become foster carers and provide a loving family and home to protect and care for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in Scotland. Doing this now would allow us the time to train and prepare you to fulfil this important caring role post pandemic.

At Kibble being a foster carer is a job, it’s a very special kind of job and it takes a very special kind of person to do it. Not everyone has it in their heart to be a carer for vulnerable children as it can be very demanding, but the satisfaction in knowing you have made a difference in the life of a child or young person is more valuable than any salary we will ever pay you at Kibble.

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