MORE than 130 people applied to become foster parents in Calderdale this year – but only one was actually recruited.
The staggering statistic has left Calderdale Council paying thousands of pounds to agencies to provide homes for vulnerable children, often outside the area.
And it has been made worse by a huge rise in the number of young people needing to be looked after – up from 324 in March to 375 last month.
The new head of children’s social care, Fiona Fitzpatrick, said: “It would be true to say Calderdale’s approach to foster care recruitment has been ad hoc. We have not had a themed or targeted recruitment campaign, there is no specific brand, our publicity materials are amateur and our website is in need of an urgent update.”
Despite that, the number of fostering inquires has risen slightly from 114 in 2012 to 133 by September this year. “However the number of people going on to apply to foster has been disappointingly low - just 11 since January.”
A report last month showed just one person was actually appointed.
Because of the time taken to recruit and assess new foster carers is about 12 months, many go off the boil while they wait for the next stage in the process and may apply elsewhere, said Ms Fitzpatrick, in a separate report to Calderdale Council’s young people’s panel, which meets on Tuesday.
She wants councillors to launch a recruitment campaign.
Panel chairman, Colin Raistrick, said: “There is a really urgent need for foster carers in Calderdale if we are to ensure that there are better outcomes for our looked after children.
“To do that, we need to make sure that when someone enquires about becoming a foster carer, they feel valued and supported. We will be looking at ways that this can be achieved.”
The council has 88 foster carers who cost the council about £343 a week and look after 146 children.
Another 50 children are looked after by family members and the rest are placed through fostering agencies who charge up to £1,100 per placement per week.
There is an urgent need to keep a lid on the cost of children’s social care because the children and young people’s budget is forecast to overspend by £1.5 million this year, even after £1 million is taken from reserves and £700,000 of management cuts are taken into account.