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A new survey conducted by the Fostering Network has highlighted a shortage of parent and child foster placements

While there remains a clear need for more foster places for teenagers and sibling groups, the survey also found that 57% of fostering services had identified demand in the area of parent child foster placements.

These are where foster carers look after young mothers - or fathers - who are experiencing difficulties with their children and support and help them to develop their parenting abilities with the aim of keeping the parent and child together in the longer term.

Increased demand

Demand for these placements could be rising, possibly because other areas of support such as residential mother and baby units or supported lodgings are facing funding cuts or may have been closed down altogether, say the Fostering Network.

Yet parent child placements can help in scenarios where there is uncertainty over whether the child is safe and may be the only way to keep the family together while further assessment is conducted, usually over a period of 12 weeks.

Different skills

It is acknowledged that the skills required for this type of fostering vary from cases where a child is fostered on their own.

As a result, foster carers offering these placements receive extra training and while there is often an accompanying care plan, the support may be directed more toward supervising and guiding the parent to look after their child, rather than caring for the baby directly.

It may be that the mothers involved may never have had a direct role model to help them understand how to react and respond to their own infant.

7,180 new foster families needed

In broader terms, the Fostering Network survey indicated that 7,180 new foster families are needed across the UK with a national breakdown of 5,900 in England, 640 in Scotland, 440 in Wales, and 200 in Northern Ireland.

The charity found that 97% of fostering services have a particular need for foster carers for teenagers and 86% of fostering services have a particular need for foster carers for sibling groups.

Across the UK, 60% of looked after children are teenagers and in England alone, there are 455 groups of siblings who have been separated despite being assessed to live together.
The Fostering Network’s chief executive Kevin Williams said that a child comes into care in need of a foster family every 20 minutes in the UK.

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