08/09/2017 07:57 BST | Updated 08/09/2017 07:57 BST

Teenage Years Are Tough Enough Even If You're Not A Child In Care

There are more than 81,000 children in care in the UK. And, for every single one of them, a set of extremely difficult decisions has had to be made.

Children are not placed into care on a whim; there have to be very good reasons which demonstrate why they are unable to stay with their birth families.

Local authorities make assessments, courts are involved and sometimes even the police have to step in.

At the centre of all these complicated proceedings, reports and orders is the safety and welfare of a child.

Protection from harm

Children are taken into care to protect them from harm. Whether that's sexual or physical abuse or neglect, keeping the child safe is paramount.

In the fight to keep children safe it's vital that we don't lose sight of what children need and deserve - a safe, stable, loving family.

And when I say children, I mean all children - including teenagers. They may appear grown up but they still very much need love, support and understanding.

It's estimated there are almost 50,000 teenagers in care in the UK - around 60% of the total number of looked-after children.

A child goes into care every 20 minutes in the UK, and there are simply not enough foster carers to look after them, a fact brought into sharp focus recently in the row about the suitability of a Muslim family fostering a Christian girl.

Although this particular case relates to a five-year-old child, it has highlighted a need for more foster carers - and more diversity of foster carers.

At Barnardo's we have cared for children for more than 150 years and regularly appeal for potential foster carers to come forward to help fill the void, particularly for harder to place children like teenagers, as well as children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The child's safety and wellbeing remain paramount and, when matching carers to children, a range of factors are taken into account, including availability, location, skills and experience.

Ethnic, cultural and religious identity are undoubtedly important and, where possible, we aim to place children with foster carers who reflect their ethnic origin, cultural background, religion and language.

That's one of the reasons why we at Barnardo's recruits carers from all backgrounds and communities, to help find good matches for children waiting to be fostered.

Safety and security

Teenage years are tough enough even when you're not a child in care so we urgently need carers who could make a huge difference to a young person's future by providing the safety and security that can prepare them for life.

A recent survey for Barnardo's showed that a third of people worried about being popular when they were teenagers, more than a quarter were bullied and more than half worried about their appearance. More than one-in-four said the felt depressed during their teenage years.

The same YouGov poll also highlighted how simple little things can help teenagers feel safe, loved and cared for. When asked how parents and carers should support a teenager, nearly nine-in-10 said they should listen to them, spend quality time with them and praise them when they do something well.

Our foster carers are amazing people. They open their hearts and homes to children and teenagers who have had a very difficult time, helping them to achieve their potential in a safe and loving family.

Caring family

Children and teenagers in care have already been through enough upheaval, and having the support of a stable, caring family can really transform their lives.

That's why it's so vital that we find the right families for all children and young people in foster care - ones in which they're able to be themselves and express themselves.

We need people from all cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds to come forward. Our foster carers are of various ages. You can be single or married, male or female, a homeowner or renting, straight, lesbian, gay, trans or bisexual. It doesn't matter. We believe you can be a foster carer and so should you.

Anyone considering becoming a foster carer - especially for teenagers - should visit our website at