Downturn could hit fostering

CHILDREN in care could become the next victims of the economic downturn as would-be foster parents pull out and the struggle to recruit new ones worsens.

CHILDREN in care could become the next victims of the economic downturn as would-be foster parents pull out and the struggle to recruit new ones worsens.

Fostering officers at Suffolk County Council are urging potential foster carers not to be deterred by financial uncertainty, pinpointing Waveney as one of the worst-hit areas with a fall in inquiries since the autumn making recruiting even more difficult.

There are 403 foster carers and about 700 children in care across the county. In the last few months, four people who were in the process of becoming approved foster carers have put their applications on hold.

Sue Lowndes, the council's head of fostering, said: 'We are hoping maybe a year or so down the line they will feel more confident to carry on with their applications. We are putting it down to the uncertainty in these times.


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'We haven't actually lost any of our approved foster carers as a result of these difficult economic times but would want to encourage new people to come forward and are particularly keen to recruit more foster carers in the Waveney area.'

Figures show that just 72 - 18pc - of the county's foster carers live in NR postcodes.

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Mrs Lowndes said: 'Fostering could actually be a new opportunity for some people and a way for people to explore a new career.'

A Norfolk County Council spokesman added: 'It is difficult to know if the current economic climate will have an impact on recruitment. Traditionally when people are out of work they look more favourably on fostering. It may be more prospective carers come forward seeking a new vocation.'

One couple in point are David and Tracey Hinton, from Lowestoft, who fostered a seven-year-old boy four years ago when their daughter, 25, left home.

Mr Hinton, 48, said he wanted a challenge after giving up work in the building trade. He said: 'We've had some bad times but they are easily outweighed by the good times. We've seen a massive improvement in him. It's a real buzz. I don't regret it for one moment. There are so many positives.'

He added: 'All you need is a spare room and your time. It doesn't matter if you're rich or poor. Money isn't a reason to be put off.'

For details, call Suffolk County Council on 0800 328 2148 or visit www.suffolkfostering.com, or call Norfolk County Council on 0800 005 007, e-mail fostering@norfolk.gov.uk

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