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The UK is heading for a crisis in foster care due to an impending rise in the shortage of foster carers, the Fostering Network charity has warned in a report showing two-thirds of foster carers are approaching potential retirement age.
The Age of Foster Care, published this week to coincide with the launch of Foster Care Fortnight, found that 65 per cent of foster carers are in their 50s, 60s or 70s. While there is no upper age limit on fostering, these figures suggest that a huge proportion of foster carers might choose to retire over the next 10 to 15 years. Only 6 per cent are in their 30s, with virtually nobody fostering while in their 20s.
There is already a shortage of 10,000 foster families in the UK. Unless recruitment of new foster carers is stepped up sharply these figures suggest there is likely to be a far higher deficit of foster carers in the near future, leading to a foster care system struggling to cope and even more disruption and instability for children.
As a result, the Fostering Network is using Foster Care Fortnight, its annual awareness campaign, to encourage people of all ages to come forward and consider fostering.
The charity is also calling on fostering services to audit their current fostering workforce to assess the potential impact of forthcoming retirements, and to review recruitment activities to ensure they are appealing to people of all ages.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said: "It's extremely worrying that such a very high proportion of the foster care workforce is potentially so close to retiring. For the sake of the tens of thousands of children who need the support and care of a foster family each year, it's crucial more people come forward.
"In order to avert the impending crisis, it's essential that we attract people of all ages. Older people can bring experience and skills from previous jobs, while it's essential we also appeal to the untapped pool of those in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who are particularly well placed to offer long-term care to younger children.
"This report also shows that it is vital measures are put in place now by national and local governments to ensure that there is not an even more severe shortage of foster carers in 10 to 15 years time."
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