Fostering Network Wales report says system 'failing' children

Child with adult
Image caption The Welsh government said it is working with councils to improve foster care

The foster care system is failing too many children and needs an urgent overhaul, a charity has warned.

The number of children needing foster care in Wales has risen to an all-time high of about 4,400, according to The Fostering Network Wales.

Its survey of 113 foster carers shows 24% said a relationship with a foster child had broken down in the last year.

The Welsh government said it is committed to helping foster carers and protecting vulnerable children.

To mark its 10th anniversary, the charity has published a report, Fostering: 10 years on, looking at the challenges that lie ahead for foster care in Wales.

It claims there is a shortage of about 550 foster carers to look after the needs of foster children.

Its report includes a survey of carers who highlight problems at the start of relationships with foster children, with only 37% saying there was a proper plan in place when a child moves in.

And a total of 63% claimed they did not get all the information they needed about a child to help with their placement.

Its report goes on to say that about one in 10 children in care move home more than three times a year.

"There are thousands of children across Wales who know the value of good quality foster care," said Freda Lewis, director of The Fostering Network Wales, which has a UK membership of over 56,000 foster carers.

"However, despite the improvements over the last 10 years the system is still failing too many children.

"Most children who come into care will have already had traumatic experiences, and they will suffer even more every time a fostering relationship breaks down and they are moved on.

'Meet the needs'

"If we really want to provide these children with the care they need, fostering in Wales needs an overhaul."

She called on the Welsh government to "make foster care a real priority".

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Media captionCaroline March, a foster carer from Ceredigion, describes some of the obstacles foster families face

Ms Lewis added: "With the system coming under increasing pressure as the number of children coming into care continues to rise, it is essential the government addresses the key challenges as a matter of urgency."

Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for children and social services, said the Welsh government has introduced a number of measures to promote placement stability and support to foster carers as well as providing guidance for councils.

"Local authorities have a duty to provide a diversity of quality placements and carers with skills to meet the needs of their local looked-after children," she said.

"Good planning and commissioning of quality placements is key to achieving better outcomes for looked after children and young people in Wales and we will continue to work with local authorities to improve this."

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) which represents Wales's local authorities, said foster care standards have shown "year-on-year improvement" with thousands of children benefiting from good quality foster care.

A spokesperson said: "We recognise the need for continued investment and support for our foster carers and echo the call of the Foster Network that government at all levels need to work together, and with our third sector partners, to recruit and retain the numbers of good quality foster carers needed."

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