New foster carers sought

A high-profile campaign was today being launched to find dozens of new foster carers prepared to open up their homes to some of Norfolk's most vulnerable children.

A high-profile campaign was today being launched to find dozens of new foster carers prepared to open up their homes to some of Norfolk's most vulnerable children.

A heartfelt plea for people to come forward will be made as Norfolk County Council battles to find homes for almost 50 youngsters in desperate need.

Nationally there has been a surge in children being taken into care following the high-profile Baby Peter scandal and that has left councils struggling to cope.

Teenage mums with babies, and groups of brothers and sisters are currently among those in Norfolk waiting expectantly for a loving home and a family to give them a fresh start.

Norfolk County Council's “I Am Hope” recruitment drive aims to end the heartbreak of needy youngsters being sent out of the county for placements that isolate them from their families, friends and schools.

It is also designed to close part of a funding black hole by saving the council �1.5m in care costs or fees paid to the out-of-county agencies.

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There are currently 49 children waiting for foster families across Norfolk, out of a shortfall of more than 650 across the East of England.

Thousands of “I Am Hope” posters will go up around Norfolk in the coming weeks, featuring many of the attributes needed to be a foster carer. They read “My name is Hope. I am trust, I am patience, I am confidence, I am security, I am inspiration, I am a foster carer”.

Adverts will also appear in newspapers and on local radio as social care bosses step up the hunt for suitable applicants.

Sheila English, Norfolk's assistant team manager for the county's fostering recruitment, said: “There are so many reasons why we need to recruit more foster carers but the overriding factor is that it is best for children in care in the county to stay in Norfolk.

“We always work to match foster carers with the most appropriate young people and sometimes we have no choice but to place young people outside of the county. This is never an easy decision and we know it is better, in most cases, for young people to stay in the county near to their support network and especially their school.

“Moving young people away from their family can also affect contact with the family, particularly if rehabilitation is taking place in an effort to reunite the family. We want to be delivering the best possible service to Norfolk's children and young people and their families and to do this we need to recruit more foster carers.”

An estimated �6.3m has been overspent on out of county, residential placements in the last year, which has put pressure on the children's services budget. Recruiting extra foster carers would reduce the overspend.

The council is looking for people who are committed, caring and have enough time in their lives to support a child or young person. Applications are accepted from adults of any age, background, religion, race or sexuality.

Fostering opportunities include:

t task-centred fostering, which provides a safe place for a child for anything from a night to well over a year, while social workers work with the family to see if the child can return home

t long-term fostering, where children cannot return home but need to stay in contact with their families

t emergency carers, who look after children at short notice

t respite carers, who look after children at weekends or during holidays

t permanent foster carers, who offer a placement to a child for the rest of their childhood.

Shelagh Hutson, cabinet member for children's services, said: “Our foster carers do a fantastic job every single day in looking after some of the county's most vulnerable children and young people.

“We know that parenting, in any form, is a challenging job, which is why we provide extensive support to our foster carers and their families. However, being a carer is also incredibly rewarding and can really improve the life chances of children in care.

“I would urge anyone that has thought about fostering to get in contact with us to find out more - Norfolk's children really do need your support.”

t For further information about becoming a foster carer, call 0800 005007 or email

t For the second day of the EDP's coverage of the campaign, including the inspiring story of how a fostered child became a foster carer, see Saturday's paper. If you have a story to tell about being a foster child or carer, call Steve Downes on 01603 772495 or email