Growing numbers of children are being looked after by an army of Northamptonshire foster families — but charities are warning more are needed.
Each year, children's charity The Fostering Network runs Foster Care Fortnight, which runs until May 22, celebrating the work of the UK’s carers and raising the profile of fostering across the country.
Latest Department for Education data shows there were 816 fostered children in the county at the end of March 2021, the most for at least a decade.
Andy Elvin, CEO of the Adolescent and Children’s Trust, an organisation that matches children with placements, said foster parents describe the experience as "incredibly rewarding."
But although there were more than 7,000 vacant places across England in March last year, Mr Elvin warns the charity has been struggling to find homes for teenagers in particular.
He said: “There is a misconception that teenagers who are in foster care are difficult, that they are in care because of something that they have done. But this is not the case.
“Like all children in foster care, regardless of their age, teenagers are in need of a safe, secure home and carers who can see their potential and help them to achieve it.”
Across the country, around 6,070 households were approved by local authorities to foster in the year to March 2021 but The Fostering Network estimates that close to 8,000 more are needed, including 576 in the East Midlands alone.
Chief executive, Kevin Williams, says people should not be dissuaded from fostering by thinking they are not the right fit for it.
“If you have ever considered fostering, now is the time to get in touch with your local fostering service and find out more,” he said.
“The fostering community is open to people from all walks of life and backgrounds: you can become a foster carer no matter your age, gender, relationship status or sexual orientation.
“Foster carers are the bedrock of children’s social care. They are vital in our society and our young people rely on their care, dedication, passion and skills to support them when they need it most.”