North Yorkshire fostering demand increases amid pandemic with potential cares urged to sign up
Some 430 children in the county are in North Yorkshire County Council’s care system at any given time, with more than 300 of these needing specialist foster care.
Fostering involves a child staying with another family, either on a short or long term basis.
Some foster carers provide respite care on a regular basis for parents of disabled children, or short term emergency care for just a few nights.
In some cases, fostering can be a long term arrangement for years, but the majority of children who need foster care in North Yorkshire are for medium term placements of between three months and two years.
There is also a demand for foster carers to look after children under 18 who are seeking asylum having fled Afghanistan and Eritrea, with an estimated two to three unaccompanied child refugees a month arriving in the county.
He said: “It’s become more difficult during the pandemic for us.
“We do a combination of things including social media and radio, but also we would have presences at things like agricultural shows and supermarkets, which hasn’t happened so much this year.
“So actually, it’s become harder to have the combination of different ways of getting the message out.
“Research shows that you need about seven interactions about fostering before moving into making an enquiry, and if one or two of those is a physical presence, it really helps. That’s the tricky bit and we’ve struggled to keep that going.”
The council sets a target of recruiting 30 new foster parents each financial year, and had recruited 19 as of the middle of December 2021.
Mr Tucker said: “We’re three quarters of the way through the year, but only two thirds of the target. It’s not dire, but clearly I don’t want to turn people away. It is harder at the moment and we’re not quite fulfilling all our recruitment targets.”
Foster parents are particularly needed in the Selby district and on the coastline, Mr Tucker said, as the council tries its best to not move children out of their local area.
Abigail Burns, whose parents Roland and Maureen Cook-Margrett fostered many children in Craven in the 1980s through to the 2000s, now works for the fostering service herself.
Mr and Mrs Cook-Margrett eventually adopted one of their foster children, Kay Cook-Magrett.
Ms Burns said: “It always felt really positive and that what we were doing was providing people with comfort, care and love, even if only for a short time.
“It wasn’t all roses, but overall it was a really positive experience and made me more compassionate and aware of social differences and injustices.
“What we have to remember is that these children are coming into care because they’ve experienced trauma.
“Foster parents have to be prepared to acknowledge that, support them and love that child anyway.”