‘We need to increase the number of foster carers in the Isle of Man.’

That is the appeal of the island’s ‘Children’s Champion’, MLC Kerry Sharpe.

Mrs Sharpe, who was appointed by Chief Minister Alfred Cannan to the role in April 2022, compiled her annual report for the 2022/23 financial year which showed that the island’s fostering figures are among the lowest in the British Isles.

Between March 2022 and March 2023, the percentage of children in mainstream foster care dropped from 39% to 34%, while the number of children in residential homes increased from 34% to 40%.

The numbers are comparatively higher in other parts of the UK. As of March 2019, the percentage of children in foster care in England was 72%, while Northern Ireland (79%), Scotland (63%) and Wales (71%) all boasted higher rates.

Discussing foster care, Mrs Sharpe said: ‘Studies have shown that children in care who are fostered have much better outcomes in life compared to their peers in residential care.

‘That’s not to say that staff in our residential homes don’t do a great job – they really care. But you don’t have to be a children’s professional to see that living with a foster parent is far more likely to give children the love and security they need.

‘I’ve seen how much joy foster carers get from looking after their foster children. I’ve seen people the same age as me (in their fifties) become re-energised by the process of looking after a child and seeing that child flourish.

‘I’ve also seen how children with foster siblings develop high levels of empathy and compassion.’

Looking to combat the low rates of foster care in the island, Manx Care has recently launched its ‘Fostering Fortnight’ initiative. The annual campaign looks to raise awareness and understanding of foster care across the UK, and takes place this week and next.

The theme of this year's Fostering Fortnight is ‘#FosteringMoments’, which looks to celebrate the moments that ‘define’ fostering journeys. These will then be shared throughout the fortnight on Manx Care’s social media pages.

A range of events and meet-ups will also take place, such as a ‘foster walk’ on Douglas Promenade and a ‘family fun day’ in Peel. Those interested can also meet the island’s ‘Family Placement Team’ in person at a variety of different locations across the fortnight, such as the NSC, Noa Bakehouse and Tynwald Mills.

Talking about the initiative, Mrs Sharpe added: ‘I’m really excited about Manx Care’s plans for Fostering Fortnight. It’s so important to highlight the great roles carried out by our foster carers and explain the difference they make to children’s lives. It’s also not just a one-way thing.

‘There are various events around the island over the next fortnight where anyone interested in fostering can to talk to people who already foster. This is a great opportunity to hear about the reality of this rewarding role.’

More information on these events can be found at www.manxcare.im