Five Rivers Child Care are spreading awareness after their research shows 30% of the South West were unaware single people can foster.
It is estimated that the UK is currently in need of more than 8,500 foster homes for children and young people.
Following the results of a recent report, Five Rivers Child Care are encouraging single people to come forward and consider caring for vulnerable children in need of a safe place to call home.
The fostering organisation found that there are a record 69,000 children in care living with around 55,000 foster families in the UK, and that in the South West alone, another 720 foster carers are needed.
Five Rivers said that with recent data showing that there are almost 700,000 single person households in the region, it would take less than 1% of this figure to meet the current shortfall in this area.
Five Rivers Child Care - which has foster carers across Wiltshire and offices in Bristol - is keen to advocate the single carer households it has across the region and celebrate the work they do in helping to turn young lives around, offering a safe space to call home while also giving themselves a stable and rewarding career.
Dion Gale, 33, from Swindon, has been a full-time foster carer with Five Rivers Child Care since 2015 after more than seven years working as a carer and a child minder. Dion currently has two boys in his care on a long-term basis, meaning they will stay with him until they are able to live independently as adults.
Dion said: “At first, I applied to become a foster carer with my partner, but after we split, I continued on my own. Before this, I wasn’t aware that young, single people like me could be foster carers, but through my own experience I’ve learned that it’s not only possible but simpler in some ways.
“As long as you have a good support network, then your relationship status is not important, especially with the extensive 24-hour support offered by Five Rivers, no carer is ever alone. Fostering on my own was simpler in that I set my own rules and boundaries with the boys, and we quickly fell into a routine that worked for us.
“Anyone considering becoming a foster carer should research the different types of roles out there. Being single can lend itself well to different types of foster care, such as respite care where a child or young person comes to your home on a short-term basis.
"This type of fostering is designed to give both foster carers and the children in their care a holiday, but it also has value for new carers. It’s a chance to step into the role and get an understanding of how things work before committing to a child on a long-term basis. Five Rivers is great because you have plenty of training and always have the final say.”
Martin Leitch, Head of Fostering Operations at Five Rivers Child Care, said: “At a time when we’re already in need of thousands of safe homes for children living in the UK, world events have drastically increased the need and urgency of finding foster carers for children and young people. We’re encouraging single people to consider fostering. Someone’s marital or relationship status, gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity does not stop them providing excellent care to a child in need.
“It’s also extremely important to us that we have foster carers from different backgrounds and communities to reflect the diversity of the children in the care system. Today, there is national shortage of more than 8,500 foster carers but we will continue to see this number increase over the next year, and beyond.
“Fostering comes in many forms and can be tailored towards the needs and lifestyle of the foster parent, or parents, and those in their care. Foster carers can work flexibly as respite or short-term foster carers, or they can have foster children and young people living with them long-term, meaning they would remain in care until they feel ready to live independently. If you’re a kind, compassionate individual and would like to get some more information and discuss the different types of fostering, please do get in touch. You will not be committed to taking on a placement at any stage of the process.
“To be considered, you must be 21 years of age and have the key qualities needed to look after children in care. This includes single people, co-habiting couples, same sex couples and people living in rented accommodation, but there must be a spare room for each foster child.”