Last year when John Lewis’s Christmas ad came out it won our hearts with a man learning to skateboard so he could connect with his new foster daughter. It made us cry, smile and want to care.
But did John Lewis’s Christmas advert have an impact on the foster care system and the children waiting for a foster family in the run up to festive season?
While hopes were raised by an immediate uptick in enquiries, Shaw Trust’s Fostering2Inspire Manager, Kathy Hamilton commented: “Signing up foster carers in 2023 has been a real challenge and there has been no increase in the numbers of people wanting to take on children. Sadly, the statistics this year from Ofsted show more foster carers have left fostering than have been recruited and more children are coming into care.”
Let’s look at the figures. At the end of March 2023, there were around 43,400 fostering households in England. This number has stayed reasonably stable for five years, but the types of fostering homes have changed. The number of households giving a friend or family member a foster home has increased by more than a fifth, with almost one in five children now living in family and friends’ households, or kinship care. But since 2019 the number of households offering children they don’t already know a home has fallen by 11%.
So, for many children there has been no John Lewis fairy magic, or new family to welcome them. And this year’s giant, gift-guzzling Venus flytrap seems just as realistic as a future where there are enough foster placements for children.
And yet, we know that for many foster carers it is a hugely rewarding and life-changing experience. Tracy, and her partner Simon are both foster carers with Fostering2Inspire. They said “When I became a foster carer, I was just expecting to help a child in need. Not in a million years did I expect to meet young people that would take my breath away.
“It doesn’t just change their lives, it changes ours, and if I could bottle up that wonderful feeling and gift it to people at Christmas time, I most certainly would! All you have to do is believe in the magic of giving!”
Could you share a bit of John Lewis fairy dust by joining Tracy and Simon, by believing in the magic and becoming a foster carer?
For other parts of the UK contact your local authority directly.