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Reducing Empty Beds in Foster Care

You may be surprised to learn that despite there being a fair number of foster carers out there, many fostering households have empty beds, with no foster children to fill them. According to Ofsted, local authorities and independent fostering agencies in England had 7,700 and 7,430 vacant places respectively in 2014-15. That’s a lot!

Empty Beds but not enough Carers?

Many potential foster carers are confused because they also see other statistics telling them that there are not enough foster carers. The Fostering Network estimated during their Fostering Fortnight Campaign in 2016 that there are over 8000 new foster carers needed in the United Kingdom in the next twelve months. More worrying, carers are concerned that they may not be occupied as much of the time as they would like. How can that be?

Well, it’s partly a matter of location; the vacancies are not in the same place as the children need to be placed. Its partly a matter of matching; finding carers with the right combination of characteristics to match those of the children who need care.

At Synergy Fostering the utilisation is between 80-90% most of the time. So how is this possible?

Thankfully, there are several practical ways to reduce the number of empty beds in foster care, including by improving communication and expanding and developing the skills of carers. Let us introduce you to a few of them below…

There’s no such thing as too much communication

First of all, there’s an urgent need for a high volume of communication between local authorities and fostering agencies. Agencies that form strong links with local authorities tend to get a lot more referrals. In turn, more referrals equal more opportunities to effectively match carers with children.

Conversation is key

It’s also important to properly address any personal concerns or anxieties that foster carers may have. Foster carers may worry about a wide range of issues, from problems with placements to their capabilities as a carer.

Support and Coaching

High levels of support and coaching are vital to combating any such fears, helping to ensure that there is a greater number of truly confident and skilled foster carers, and – ultimately – fewer empty beds.

The only way is up!

As well as improving the quality of communication, it’s crucial to train foster carers to the highest standard. Many carers aren’t trained to work with children of a certain age or ethnicity, for example.

Instead of having a preference for certain ages, it may simply be that the carer does not feel adequately prepared to care for, say, a young baby as opposed to a teenager. More training will likely lead to increased capabilities, which can help to reduce the number of empty beds.

Carers should also be encouraged to work with professionals to learn how to manage children with difficulties that they may not have encountered before – such as learning difficulties, health conditions or behavioural difficulties. This helps the carer to develop their own skills and experiences, while also helping to reduce the number of empty beds – what’s not to like?

We’re determined to do our bit to solve the empty bed shortage in foster care, but we need your help! To find out more about the world of fostering, as well as how you can become a foster carer yourself, please feel free to get in touch with our friendly team here at Synergy Fostering.


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young beautiful sensual woman in bed, with a magazine

young beautiful sensual woman in bed, with a magazine