This week marks the latest campaign highlighting the need for more foster carers to come forward to provide supportive and loving homes to the thousands of children in the UK who have often experienced the worst in life.
People who are interested in fostering either contact their local authority or one of the many independent fostering agencies but recently there has been a lot of talk about fostering agencies making a profit out of children in care.
A recent article in The Guardian highlights the amount of profit that is made in the care system by some organisations. It also highlights the rules in Scotland where it is illegal for profit making agencies to provide foster care and asks the question, 'should this be extended to other parts of the UK?' If so, who would support local authorities to meet the shortage of foster carers across the UK?
There are charities and not for profit organisations that provide fostering and put all of their resources back into delivering a great service for abused and neglected children and young people. Action for Children is one of those organisations.
The organisation Fostering through Social Enterprise, of which we are a member, recently said:
''When profit becomes the primary driver, children and foster families inevitably lose out."
At Action for Children we believe that as local authorities face hard times, it's important that every penny goes to supporting the resources for children.
We are a leading children's charity with a long history of looking after disadvantaged and vulnerable children. As a charity, we plough our resources back into supporting services for children and young people.
Foster families provide vulnerable children with the stability they need to change their lives. Our carers tell us that it is really rewarding to help children and young people learn to trust and grow in confidence and self-belief. The relationship foster families have with their fostering agency is also important in supporting them to take vulnerable children and young people into their homes and hearts.
I recently spoke to two of our care leavers who have benefited from the love, support, and stability that our foster carers have provided to them over the years.
Shelly is a care leaver. At six, social services were already involved in her life, at eight, she had started bringing up her six and seven year old sisters. At the age of twelve Shelley had never experienced stability or a loving and secure home and had already been forced to have an adult head on her young shoulders.
When Shelley was sixteen, she met Sally through Action for Children and credits the stability that she provided to changing her life. Now eighteen, Shelley is on the path to living independently and is enjoying her art and design course.
Lauren first came into foster care aged four. She moved around several times and describes the experience as overwhelming. After years of instability Lauren moved to live with Action for Children foster carers, Derrick and Sue. They were able to help her feel part of their family so that after seven years of change and uncertainty she could finally feel like she belonged somewhere.
Now twenty, Lauren is in her second year of her music performance degree and praises the support that she had from her foster family for her sense of adventure and the confidence to explore her dream of becoming a songwriter.
Shelley and Lauren are proof that you can never put a price on providing a happy and secure home for children in care.
We believe that getting the right foster home is hugely important in helping children in care overcome traumatic experiences, develop emotionally, and form lasting and positive relationships.
If you have a spare room and can provide a loving home for a vulnerable child or young person please visit www.actionforchildren.org.uk.