The East Midlands is facing a growing demand for foster carers, particularly those who can provide specialised care for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). On March 31, 2024, the combined areas of Derby City, Derbyshire, Nottingham City, and Nottinghamshire reported 3,314 children in care, a number that continues to rise. Of these, only 1,732 children were placed into 592 foster homes, highlighting a significant shortfall in available foster care provision.

A striking 39% of children in care require SEN support, either through an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) or SEN K support. According to the UK Department for Education, approximately 50-60% of children in care have identified special educational needs. This high demand highlights the critical need for more foster carers who can meet the unique needs of these children.

 

Ren’s inspiring journey as a foster carer in Derby

Ren has dedicated the past 15 years to being a foster carer, with a special focus on children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). As well as raising her own two children, she currently cares for two full-time foster children with SEN.

Ren's passion for fostering began early, growing up in a family of foster carers who specialised in supporting children with SEN. She still helps her parents by providing regular respite care for their foster children. "A child with SEN is no different from any other child; they are just part of our family," Ren says.

Inspired by her upbringing, Ren chose to become a foster carer herself once she had her own home and family. She, too, specialises in providing the extra support needed by children with additional needs, offering both full-time and respite care. "Every child needs different types of care, love, and support," she explains.

One of the most magical moments in Ren's life was adopting her son, Jacob. She began fostering Jacob, who has additional needs, when he was a baby and adopted him when he turned three.

Ren doesn't see challenges in caring for a child with SEN. "Children are children, and they are our family. As a family, we care for their needs," she says. She emphasises the importance of acknowledging the unique needs of every child, whether they require short-term or long-term care.

When people remark on how difficult being a foster carer must be, Ren encourages them to focus on the positive impact they can have. "Don't look at the negatives; look at the support and difference you can make in their lives," she advises.

Ren's extended family is a strong support network, and she feels enriched by all the children in her life. "My family is my wide network, and we all support each other. I feel my family is enriched by all the children in my life," she shares.

Ren also praised the support she has received from the local authority. "I have received amazing support from Derby City Council; my social worker has been second to none. The professionals throughout my career have been incredible," she says.

"Fostering is not a job; it's a way of life. It's just us," Ren concludes. "You just need time in your heart.”

 

The demand for foster carers in the East Midlands

The demand for foster carers in the East Midlands is influenced by several factors, including the number of children in need of care, their specific needs, and the availability of current foster carers. There is a particular need for:

- Emergency Care and Respite Care: Temporary care in emergencies.

- Long-term Care: Foster carers for specific children who they agree to care for as long as needed or even until adulthood.

- Short-term care: This is full time care, from a few days to a year whilst plans are made.

- Specialist Care: Foster carers for children with special needs, including physical disabilities, emotional and behavioral difficulties, and medical needs.

Children with SEN need carers who understand their educational and developmental needs. There is also a significant need for foster carers willing to take in sibling groups and teenagers, who often have a harder time finding placements.

 

Benefits of foster care for children with SEN

Research suggests that children with SEN often fare better in foster care compared to residential homes, particularly in terms of emotional and social development. Foster care provides:

- Individual Attention: A more individualised and family-like environment.

- Emotional Support: Consistent emotional support, crucial for children with SEN.

- Tailored Care: Care tailored to meet specific educational and developmental needs.

- Community Integration: Opportunities for broader social interactions and learning experiences.

However, the success of foster care depends heavily on the quality of the foster family and the stability of the placement. Tailored assessments and careful placement decisions are crucial to ensuring that each child receives the most beneficial care possible.

 

Support and training for SEN foster carers

Foster for East Midlands provides robust support and training to ensure foster carers are well-equipped to meet the needs of the children in their care. This includes:

- Pre-placement Training: Preparing prospective foster carers with the necessary skills and knowledge.

- Ongoing Training: Continuous professional development opportunities.

- Support Services: Access to social workers, support groups, and respite care.

Foster for East Midlands: A Collaborative Effort

In April 2024, a new regional fostering hub was launched in the East Midlands, with the collaboration between councils in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, and Nottinghamshire. This initiative aims to increase the recruitment of foster carers and provide the support they need. By placing more carers in children’s own communities, fewer young people will need to be placed in unfamiliar areas.

The four authorities successfully applied to join the Department for Education’s Fostering Recruitment and Retention programme. Foster for East Midlands is a recruitment hub that engages prospective foster carers from their initial enquiry through to submission of their full application. The funding will also help improve the support available for existing foster carers, empowering them to create loving, stable homes for children in need.

 

 

To find out more about fostering, call 03033 132950 or visit the website www.fosterforeastmidlands.org.uk.

Our new recruitment team is on hand to offer support every step of the way. Our information events are a great way to learn more about fostering. You’ll hear from fostering staff and often from foster carers and foster children and young people, with opportunities to ask questions.

Consider joining Foster for East Midlands and help change a child's life for the better. You don't need specific experience working with vulnerable children. If you can provide a welcoming and secure home where a child can feel safe and supported, you could be an excellent foster carer. Come along to an event and find out more—there’s nothing to lose and no obligation. You can book online and take the first step towards making a profound difference in a child's life.