FOSTER carers across Dorset have been doing fantastic work throughout the pandemic year – with recruitment continuing, despite the risks.

Dorset’s corporate parenting panel heard during an online meeting on Thursday evening that even more are needed.

Councillors were told that a target of finding an extra 40 foster carers has been set – to more than make up for around 20 who are likely to retire, or leave for other reasons.

Said fostering manager John Heron: “We completely applaud foster carers who have continued to take children into their homes at the time we had an infectious disease rife in the county.”

He said he had been ‘blown away’ that people continued to come forward and volunteer throughout the pandemic year.

He also praised social care fostering staff who had continued to make home visits – something which had not happened elsewhere in the country.

Dorset currently has 207 fostering households, from all walks of life, and is in the process of setting up a foster carers association and new developing new methods of support including an out of hours advice and support service which is expected to be in place by autumn.

The panel heard that during the May ‘foster care fortnight’ the county would be concentrating on recruiting more foster carers, especially targeting people who might be able to support teenagers and groups of two or more siblings.

Much of the publicity is expected to be on social media although in the Weymouth area, where there is a shortage, billboard advertising is also being tried – following on from a recent campaign using posters on buses.

Mr Heron said it was encouraging for Dorset Council that it had received inquiries from foster carers working for independent agencies and from outside the county about fostering as part of the Dorset Council fostering network.

Jan Hill, who is to chair the new foster carers association, said the group’s aim would be to work as a team with Dorset Social Service, helping with recruitment and training and offering mutual support: “If foster carers are happy, the children are happy,” she told the meeting.