There are many reasons why people foster, but they all have one thing in common—a wish to make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people in care.

Despite the number of children entering care continuing to rise in most areas of the UK, there are not enough people willing to foster. The aging population of existing foster carers, coupled with fewer people choosing to become carers, is having a devastating impact.

■ Providing a safe and stable home.

Brenda Farrell, UK Head of Business Fostering and Adoption at Barnardos, said “With record numbers of children going into care in most areas of the UK, we urge anyone who could offer a safe and stable home to a child to find out more about fostering. The vast majority of children coming into care go into foster care, so it is vitally important there are foster carers there to support them. We know many people across the country would love to foster, but they believe there are elements of their lives preventing them from doing so, such as their age, financial situation, or because they have biological children. The reality is that many of these supposed barriers are myths that come from misconceptions of fostering, such as not having the right skills to look after a disabled child. We provide specialist training, support and guidance to help ensure that together, we can give the child the support they need to thrive.”

Caring for a child with physical disabilities, medical conditions or learning difficulties can be a very rewarding role. You will be helping a child with additional needs to live life to the fullest, giving them the help and support they need to reach their potential.

This is what Barnardo’s foster-carer Gillian says about her experience of SEN fostering:

■ Making a positive difference.

“Two of our birth children have rare genetic conditions. So we had a lot of experience when it came to genetic conditions and the different aspects of living with someone with a rare disease and how they needed support educationally and medically. But it also gave us the experience of being able to foster someone with extra needs as well. There are so many children who need a safe home to live in. If you have a spare bedroom, whether you have childcare experience or not, if you’re able to show big love for a little time or a long time, fostering caring may well be for you. Barnardo’s give a lot of training and peer support and have extensive scaffolding around their foster carers. You don’t need to choose between fostering children with or without a disability, but be open to considering any child according to your own skills and experience.”

There are support groups where you get the opportunity to meet with other foster carers and social workers to discuss your fostering experiences. The support groups are attended by new and established foster carers, allowing each person to benefit from others’ support and expertise. You receive a fostering fee and allowance as soon as you start caring for a child or young person. Barnardo’s carers receive on average £495 per week, but fees and allowances can go up to £630 depending on factors such as the type of foster care you are providing, the number of children you care for, the age of the child(ren) you look after, and the children’s needs.

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