MOST children and teenagers take their parents for granted, but for the 6,000 children in care in Wales, all they crave is a loving family. As Foster Care Fortnight begins, BECKY CARR finds out about the urgent need for more foster carers.

YOUNG, old, male, female, single, in a relationship, gay or straight – there is no barrier to becoming a foster carer, you just need a passion to help a child in need.

That’s the message of The Fostering Network during this year’s Foster Care Fortnight.

The aim of the campaign, running from today until Sunday, June 14, is to raise awareness of the urgent need for foster carers across the UK, with 550 more families needed in Wales in the next year.

The director of The Fostering Network Wales, Emily Warren, said the huge number is “shocking”, considering the size of the country.

There are nearly 6,000 children in the care of local authorities in Wales, with 52 per cent over the age of 10.

In Wales, 4,405 children were living with 3,650 foster families in March last year.

The shortage of foster carers means agencies often do not have a choice of where to place children and they could end up in unsuitable home, be moved around or do not have a stable home.

Children may end up far away from home, be split up from brothers and sisters and lose touch with family and friends.

Ms Warren told the Argus: “We struggle to get foster carers who can take sibling groups, keeping them together is really important to us.

“Also we struggle with disabled children as well - we need people from a diverse range of backgrounds to meet the individual child’s needs.”

Foster Care Fortnight is primarily to support recruitment and raise the profile of fostering.

This year’s theme is ‘Make A Connection’ and foster carers and social services staff are being encouraged to highlight association with fostering, whether it be the length of time they have been foster carers or how many children they have supported.

It could also be neighbours, family members or other people who support foster carers.

The campaign his year has the backing of celebrities and politicians from across the UK, including author and creator of the fictional looked-after child Tracey Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson, singer and son of foster carers, Gareth Gates, chef Lorraine Pascal and sports personality Gabby Logan.

Newport-born Hollywood actor Michael Sheen has also given the campaign his backing.

He said: “Each day 3,650 unassuming families wake up, get dressed, and set about making life better for around 4,500 children.

"They’re the everyday heroes who are changing the world for the fostered children who are living with them.

“All children deserve a childhood. Foster carers give them the chance to experience this, and so much more. But this year alone we need over 550 more foster families in Wales so that we can make sure that every child can have loving and caring foster carers to meet each child’s unique needs.

“All of society should be hugely ambitious for the nearly 4,500 children living in foster care in Wales, so I hope this year you look into your heart and see whether you have the skills and qualities that foster carers need to change the lives of the children living in foster care.”

“Foster Care Fortnight is also a way of dispelling some myths,” Ms Warren added.

“Foster carers can be from all backgrounds - it’s just the common passion to support children.

“A lot of people are put off it but it can be anyone.

“As a foster carer, there’s lots of support that you can expect from the agency. There’s information, there’s training, and there is somebody on the end of the phone.

“Foster carers also get a national minimum allowance from local authorities which the Welsh Government set.”

The Fostering Network admits fostering is a “challenging and professional role” and therefore, foster carers should be properly remunerated.

Ms Warren added the network will continue to lobby the Government for further payment and rights, as many carers do not receive the benefits of permanent employment such as a pension, sick or holiday pay, or a retainer fee when you don’t have a child in a holiday placement.

“While fostering can be a hugely rewarding career choice, it is not one anyone takes for the money,” the charity says.

Jackie Sanders, director at The Fostering Network, said: “As each year passes, we see more and more children coming into care. We need people who can open their heart, and their homes, to vulnerable children and young people who need support at a critical point in their young lives.

“A good foster carer will believe in the ambition of the children in their care in the same way they’d believe in the ambition of their own family members.

"A childhood is too short to waste, and foster carers can help those who haven’t had the best start begin to enjoy their life and grow into the adults that they want to be.”

Foster carers are needed for a host of different arrangements including temporary fostering, from an overnight stay to a few months, permanent fostering, respite care for families needing a regular or one off break, supported lodgings with guidance and support from a responsible adult for a group of young people, and private fostering.

Ms Warren added: “We also need to get the message across that long term fostering is an option. A lot of the time, adoption is not an option for children who one day will go back to their families or still have a family they are in contact with.”

One of the events being held to celebrate Foster Care Fortnight is a Foster Walk in Tredegar on Friday, June 12 organised by the Foster Care Co-operative, a not-for-profit foster care agency.

The four-mile walk will start at 1pm at Bedwellty House in Morgan Street and is open to staff, foster carers, children and friends.

The route ends at Beaufort Road Family Centre, with a free barbecue and refreshments for all walkers.

Walkers are encouraged to wear Fostering Network’s colour of orange to brighten up Blaenau Gwent.

To donate visit People are also being encouraged to take part in The Fostering Network's social media campaign by printing off the ‘my connection to fostering’ placard, taking a picture and posting it on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #FCF2015 between June 1 to 14.

For more information visit