Councillors in Calderdale are to discuss how foster carers are recruited, after a report revealed the number of people looking after children was “disappointingly low”.
The number of people enquiring about fostering has risen in Calderdale from 114 in 2010 to 133 in the first nine months of 2011 alone. However, of these, only 37 applications were made at subsequent fostering information evenings, and 11 turned into formal expressions of interest.
This is despite a council campaign to raise the profile of fostering, which has included advertising campaigns, recruitment events and new information packs.
Coun Colin Raistrick, chair of Calderdale Council’s children and young person’s scrutiny panel, said people who express an interest in fostering a child needed to be better guided through the process.
“There’s a really urgent need for foster carers in Calderdale if we are to ensure that there are better outcomes for our looked after children,” he said.
“To do that, we need to make sure that when someone enquires about becoming a foster carer, they feel valued and supported.
“The average time to recruit and assess a new foster carer is 12 months. We need to speed up that process and that means we need to have the resources and efficient processes to ensure that enquiries and applications are quickly dealt with. Scrutiny will be looking at ways that this can be achieved.”
The report to be presented to the scrutiny panel says that the number of children looked after in Calderdale has increased steadily from 270 in March 2010 to 375 at the end of last month.
However, the number of in-house foster carers has remained the same, with the current figure standing at 88 carers for 146 children. Of the 88 fostering households, 18 are part-time.
The report states that “a range of local families, with a mix of skills and experience, who are well trained” need to be recruited to offer a high quality service.