A record number of children are in need of foster homes, according to figures.
Data released by Foster Care Associates to coincide with the launch of Foster Care Fortnight shows a huge gap in how many children need foster care, with a shortfall of 7,600 foster homes in the UK.
The crisis emerged as a study found six in 10 British parents don’t feel adequately skilled enough to consider fostering a child.
The independent poll of 2,000 parents revealed worries about money, limited space, and the issues or behaviours a child may have, were all cited as reasons not to foster a child.
More than half of parents worry a foster child might be a bad influence on their own children, or that their own child might be jealous if another child came into the house.
Roy Murray, managing director of Foster Care Associates, said: “Many of the concerns raised in this research are ones we have heard before, and they are understandable as fostering is a path unknown and therefore often misunderstood by many.
“People focus on the negative aspects of fostering – and there are many hugely positive impacts for the outcomes of children that are not heard.
“Providing a nurturing environment for a vulnerable child can be one of the most rewarding and selfless acts a person or family can do.”
“A foster child can bring additional love, laughter, joy and purpose to a family – and we find siblings tend to embrace their new family member, welcoming them into the home.”
The study found 59 per cent of parents say their decision to foster would be affected by the fact they don’t know what physical or emotional issues a child may bring with them.
And two thirds don’t think they would be able to cope with, or commit to, a foster child who had a mental or physical issue or demand.
And while almost two thirds of those polled feel confident they could love another child as much as they love their own flesh and blood, they would be reluctant to open their doors to another in case they weren’t adequately skilled to cope with their needs.
For some, more practical issues hold weight when it comes to the decision whether to foster.
One of the requirements for caring for a child is the provision of a room for them, and a third of those polled claim their current home isn’t big enough – but 15 per cent say they’d be more open to the idea if they managed to move to a bigger house.
On the positive side, three quarters of parents agreed they would have enough time to dedicate to another child.
An overwhelming 63 per cent of parents feel they would become too attached to the child and not want them to leave the family home when the time came – though long- term foster care is an option.
Over a quarter of those polled have considered becoming a foster carer, with 29 per cent saying they would have been more likely to foster if they couldn’t have children themselves.
For some 17 per cent, the children leaving an empty nest may sway them to consider taking in another child, according to the OnePoll study.
Roy Murray added: “We are constantly campaigning to increase the number of foster carers, as the national shortfall is significant.
“There are currently thousands of children without a safe and secure place to live, and more importantly, there are people out there who are able to offer a home, love and security to these children and young people.
“As this study shows, there are people out there who are in a position to foster, but who may have concerns which need addressing before making a new life choice.
“We know any type of person can foster – we work with a huge variety of people, but what they all have in common is the passion to change children’s lives.
“To alleviate some of the fears cited in this survey, we provide all of our carers with substantial in-depth training alongside 24/7 support.
“This equips them with the skills necessary to nurture the children in their care, and turn their life around, providing them with a more positive outcome for their future.
“I would urge people across the country to just think about it . Fostering can be incredibly rewarding and we’re here to help you at every step of the way.”
For more information about fostering, visit www.thefca.co.uk or call 0800 434 6000.