The Now Foster scheme aims to address the “catastrophic” shortage of foster carers and is urging Londoners to consider opening their homes to foster children in the same way they did for Ukrainian refugees.
Lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs and journalists are being encouraged to sign up to the training and guidance scheme which aims to boost the number of people with careers and demanding schedules becoming foster carers.
A pilot project in Newham is seeking to recruit the first group of 12 households, with the aim of rolling out the scheme to the rest of the country.
Now Foster will provide budding foster carers with one-to-one guidance through the application process, as well as empathy training, a family coach and a support bubble of peers to give practical and emotional support.
Co-founder Katie Waldegrave from Shepherd’s Bush, who previously set up Now Teach, which encourages professionals to retrain as teachers, said: “A lot of people don’t consider fostering because they assume they will have to quit their jobs or that it cannot work if they have children of their own - it’s not true at all.”
Sir John Timpson, who is supporting the scheme and has himself fostered 90 children, said: “If you were one of those people who considered opening up your home to a Ukrainian family, I’d encourage you to consider fostering too. We really want more professionals to add fostering to their life - lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, journalists - we need people from all backgrounds to step up to the challenge.”
England faces a shortfall of 25,000 foster families by 2026 according to the Social Market Foundation. Meanwhile, a report by children’s commissioner Rachel de Souza warned that one in three children are separated from their siblings when placed in care.
Now Foster co-founder Laurie Kilby, a former social worker, said she was often forced to separate families “without any faith that the places I was taking children to would give them a better start in life.”
She said: “There is a crisis going on around us, and we need more people to help keep these kids safe.
“People with full-time careers, busy social lives and lots of hobbies make great foster carers because they give the child a full, vibrant picture of what life is really like. If that’s you, we’re urging you to consider fostering. It’s worth remembering that what’s normal to you, can be a real inspiration to a child who’s grown up in care.”
Martin Barrow, a journalist and foster carer, said: “We need to bring a wider demographic into foster care. We need people who might not have considered it because they think they are too old or too young, or because they have a successful career and a busy life, or because they simply don’t know what the role entails and they are wary.”
Now Foster aims to keep siblings together and ensure family ties are maintained.
Ms Waldegrave said: “We believe there needs to be a revolution in the way that foster care is seen and understood. We want more people to experience the joy of fostering.”