Home Children, Young People & Families New research exposes foster care myths fuelling the UK crisis

New research exposes foster care myths fuelling the UK crisis

by Lisa Carr

It is well-known that the well-being of vulnerable children is at stake due to a growing deficit in foster carers. In the UK, 82,170 children are currently in need of care, yet there are only 43,000 foster households in England[1].

New research from the UK’s largest family-owned, independent foster agency, Swiis Foster Care has revealed the depth of misunderstanding across the country, and shed light on findings that could help attract more foster carers into the sector. With 22% of the UK public open to considering a career in fostering which, according to the latest ONS data could equate to over 14 million people, it is important to correct the myths around fostering.

Research shows that a combination of nervousness and lack of understanding around eligibility are stopping potential foster carers from considering fostering as a career. Common myths, as the findings show unfortunately persist but if overcome, could greatly help to increase the number of foster carers in the UK and unlock a wealth of untapped potential.

Top Five Fostering Myths Busted:

  1. You can foster over the age of 60, yet 72% of those over 55 were unsure whether they could.
  2. You do not have to be married or in a relationship to foster, yet half of respondents aged between 18 and 44 were unsure or believed you did (47% of 18-24, 46% of 25-34 and 52% of 35-44).
  3. You don’t need to own your own home to foster, yet over half of respondents (52%) were unsure, or believed you needed to.
  4. You do not have to be heterosexual to foster, yet over a third of respondents (39%) were either unsure or believed that members of the LGBTQ+ community cannot foster.
  5. You can foster from the age of 21: yet a staggering 67% were unsure or thought that you cannot foster from that age.

In the recent study, Swiis Foster Care also discovered surprising insights regarding groups that are willing to consider fostering as a career.

Young Adults: The Rising Heroes

Contrary to convention, young adults are ready and willing to embrace the responsibility of fostering. The study shows that appetite for fostering declines as age increases, with 35% of 18–24-year-olds saying they’ve considered fostering, compared with 19% of 45–54-year-olds and just 10% of those over 55.

But despite this, younger generations are shown to be less sure about their eligibility. With 19% of those aged 18-24 stating they had looked into fostering but did not think they were eligible. Currently, the minimum age to foster in the UK is 21 years old.

Men Ready to Step Up to the Plate

Breaking stereotypes, a growing number of men are expressing an interest in fostering.

The research found that more men than women are currently in the process of becoming foster carers (25 % of men, compared to 8% of women). It also shows that men are less nervous about becoming foster carers.  31% of women answered that had considered fostering but were too nervous to follow through. Compared with only 19% of men.

However, relationship myths have a stronger hold amongst men, than they do with women. 51% of men were either unsure or believed you must be married or in a relationship to foster. Compared with 46% of women.

Private Renters: Unleashing Unused Space

While private renters have the physical space needed to accommodate foster children, nearly a quarter (22%) of those believe that you need to be a homeowner to foster a child.

The truth of the matter is that you just have a spare bedroom in your home, be it rented or owned, and this research shows that 55% of those in private rental have at least one spare bedroom.

LGBTQ+ Community: Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

While 32% of LGBTQ+ respondents stated they’re interested in fostering, 19% of those were unsure if they would qualify because of their sexuality, highlighting the importance of demonstrating the inclusive nature of this crucial career.

When asked about the most prolific myths surrounding fostering, such as relationship status, living arrangement, age, work life and unemployment and benefits. Members of the LGBTQ+ community show that they believe these myths to be true, at a consistently higher rate than those that identify as heterosexual.

Speaking on these findings, Tim Notchell, company director and CEO at Swiis Foster Care: “This research clearly tells us that there is work to be done in addressing the misconceptions around becoming a foster carer. There is clearly an untapped market out there of willing and able carers, from all walks of life. But what’s stopping them, is often their own perceived notion of what a foster carer is, or should be.”

“Now more than ever we want to unlock the potential within our communities so we can provide brighter futures for those who need it most. Together, we can ensure no vulnerable child is left without the support and care they deserve.”

To foster in the UK, applicants must be over 21 years old, have a stable living environment with a spare bedroom, whether they are private renters or homeowners, and a genuine interest in providing a safe, caring home for a child.

Swiis Foster Care, and its sister company Swiis Foster Care Scotland is the UK’s largest family-owned, independent foster care agency. For more than 20 years, Swiis has worked in partnership with Local Authorities to change the lives of thousands of vulnerable children and young people in need of a foster home. 

To find out more about fostering, and understand the eligibility criteria visit www.swissfostercare.com

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/fostering-in-england-1-april-2021-to-31-march-2022/fostering-in-england-1-april-2021-to-31-march-2022

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