A new campaign aims to inspire people from all walks of life to consider fostering with their local authority.

There are more than 7,000 children in the care system in Wales, but only 3,800 foster families. In Carmarthenshire, there are currently 100 local authority foster carers but more are needed.

Today, Foster Wales - the national network of 22 Welsh local authority fostering teams - set out with the bold aim of recruiting over 800 new foster families by 2026, to provide welcoming homes for local children and young people.

Foster Wales Carmarthenshire has joined the new campaign, ‘bring something to the table,’ utilising their greatest asset – current foster carers – to share realistic experiences of foster care and explore the small but significant human attributes people possess that can make the world of difference to a young person in care.

Foster Wales has spoken to over 100 people to develop the campaign – including foster carers, social workers, teachers, members of the public, and care leavers.

The responses from these groups highlighted three key things stopping potential carers from enquiring:

• A lack of confidence in their skills and ability to support a child in care.

• The belief that fostering doesn’t fit with certain lifestyles.

• Misconceptions around the criteria to become a carer.

Armed with this knowledge, Foster Wales has drawn on real stories of carers in Wales to show that local authority fostering is flexible, inclusive, and comes with extensive training and professional development opportunities.

Carmarthenshire foster carers, Jo and Emma, shared their experience as part of the new campaign.

The couple explained how fostering has brought together all of the experience they’ve had in previous jobs working with young people – and these skills have been something they could ‘bring to the table’ to help a child who has had a challenging start.

“Fostering has been really rewarding. From helping our foster child experience new things to seeing how much progress they made – especially in school, where we’ve had lots of feedback that they’ve really improved,” they said.

“I think people are frightened they’re doing a busy job or they’ve got a busy family already and that it’s going to be impossible. Or, they’ve been put off by the thought of fostering, as they think it’s going to be really hard, but there’s a lot of support.

“You can talk to your fellow foster carers, build a community, and help each other out. With this support system, you feel like you’re not on your own.

“Because sometimes you’ll think ‘Am I doing this right?’ and it’s just nice to chat with other carers who are in the same situation. You can have a laugh and giggle about it all and that’s important too.”

Currently, Wales is in the process of a whole system change for children’s services.

The changes proposed in the 2021 co-operation agreement between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru made a clear commitment to ‘eliminate private profit from the care of looked after children.’

This means, by 2027, care of children that are looked after in Wales will be provided by public sector, charitable or not-for-profit organisations, and the need for local authority foster carers is greater than ever.

Jo continued: “Don’t be held back by thinking you’re not good enough. We’ve all lived lives, have stories and a past, but you’re bringing a wealth of experience, and what you’ve learned from your ‘mistakes’ can be so beneficial for children and young people.

“You can foster as a single person, as a same sex couple, you can do it if you’re a man, a woman on your own, if you’re older. Foster Wales run information mornings regularly. So I’d say, come along, chat to some foster carers and learn how it all works.”

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Services, Cllr. Jane Tremlett said: “It is impossible to emphasise the importance of the work that foster carers in Carmarthenshire perform to positively impact on the lives of children in their local community.

“As a local authority we are fully supportive of the ‘Bring something to the table’ campaign and can support foster carers by providing everything you need to help you on your journey to build better futures for local children, from specialist training and support to financial allowances.”

The campaign begins this week across TV, streaming services, radio, digital, social media, and with various events in local communities across Wales.

For more information about fostering, or to make an enquiry, visit: https://fosterwales.gov.wales/