ENGLAND’S pilot fostering recruitment hub, Foster with North East is celebrating the approval of its first foster carers and reaching 500 enquiries.

There has been a national decline in foster carers since 2018 with the North East suffering the biggest loss of carers in England. The region currently has 1,500 approved carers – a third less (33%) than the previous year – but almost 6,000 children and young people in care.

Backed by the Department of Education, Foster with North East was launched in direct response to the need to recruit more carers in England. The collaboration saw all 12 local authorities in the region join forces to recruit and support prospective foster carers. Latest figures from The Fostering Network estimate there is a need for 5,400 foster families in England, which equates to an additional 370 foster families needed in the North East.

Since the Foster with North East launch in October 2023, six new Fostering Recruitment Support Hubs have taken learnings from the region’s pioneering program to launch across England: new hubs include Foster With Us, Foster4, Fostering South West, Local Community Fostering Greater London East, Foster with West London and Foster for East Midlands.

The Foster with North East hub team work closely alongside each of the 12 local authority fostering teams to support prospective carers all the way from initial enquiry through to application, training and approval – answering questions, myth busing, offering a listening ear, training and support as well as providing a region-wide buddy scheme.

One of the first people approved through Foster with North East is Brittany Hardy, who grew up in a fostering household after her mum became a foster carer when she was 13. Speaking of her experience of working with Foster with North East she said:

“From the very start of the application process to this day in my fostering journey I feel reassured that with the support and knowledge of the professionals around me I can really make a difference to children and young people and I’m excited about the future opportunities.

“The Skills to Foster Training was delivered by Foster with North East team and it was very impactful, they made it very memorable, easy to follow, and I felt like it made a great impact on my learning alongside the team at my local authority.  Being supported by both the Foster with North East hub and the fostering team has been great.  Everyone who was involved in the recruitment and assessment process was approachable, knowledgeable, and really helped my confidence grow.”

The Foster with North East hub works closely with each fostering team from its local authority partners the hub leads various campaigns to promote fostering and raise awareness of the need for foster carers. The hub has a dedicated frontline response to fostering enquiries and support prospective foster carers in the region through their journey to foster, from initial enquiry, application and beyond.

Jill Colbert OBE, Chair of the Foster with North East Project Implementation Board said:

“Foster with North East was created to tackle the decline in foster carers in the region and we are delighted to have reached such milestones within just six months of our launch, but we’ve a long way to go still.  We need even more people from all walks of life to provide the right homes for children and young people whether that’s for one night, a week, for a few months at a time or long-term.  The feedback about the application process from prospective carers has been incredibly supportive and positive and we are continuously developing our programme to make sure we are helping as many people as possible to become carers and to further improve the way we all work together across the region for the long-term benefit of children and young people.

“As the first regional fostering hub we are honoured to have led the way to this new way of working collaboratively with neighbouring local authorities and to see a further six new fostering hubs established since April.  We know there are a lot of people who have considered fostering but many are put off by misconceptions about who can foster or what it takes to be a carer so I would encourage anyone to pick up the phone or head over to our website to find out more about making a difference in our region.”

Foster with North East also follows commitments set out in the government’s Children’s Social Care Implementation Strategy, Stable Homes, Built on Love, published in February 2023*. The Department for Education is providing over £27m this Spending Review to deliver a fostering recruitment and retention program, so that foster care is available for more children and young people who need it, with a £3.3m investment to back the North East project.

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