The number of children needing foster care has risen by 44% during the coronavirus pandemic while the number of people looking to become foster parents plummeted by nearly half compared to the same period last year, according to Barnardo's.
From March 1st - April 23rd 2020, there were 2,349 referrals to Barnardo’s fostering services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a figure which shot up from 1,629 for the same period in 2019. Meanwhile the number of enquiries from people looking to become foster parents for the charity fell from 302 to 161 - a dramatic 47% drop.
Barnardo’s says this has created a ‘state of emergency’ as children who may have experienced abuse and neglect wait for places with loving foster families. Without more potential foster carers coming forward, hundreds of children referred to Barnardo’s will not be placed with a family.
Barnardo's believes that the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has increased pressure on vulnerable families, with job losses, deepening poverty and worsening mental health all leading to family breakdown. Children have also been in lockdown in homes where domestic abuse and sexual abuse are taking place. These pressures will likely impact more families as the crisis continues.
At the same time Barnardo’s believes that the change in circumstances experienced by many because of COVID-19 and uncertainty about the future has resulted in a drop in enquiries being made to the charity from people looking to foster.
Barnardo’s is calling on people over 21, who have a spare room and the time and commitment to support a child to get in touch and consider fostering a child. Barnardo’s welcomes foster carers from all walks of life, including single people, those from the LGBTQ+ community and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.