It’s estimated that a foster family needs to be found for a child every 22 hours.
There are many reasons why youngsters are taken into care - for example, being the victim of neglect, physical or emotional abuse - but, whatever the cause, the need for them to find a safe and secure environment never changes.
Foster carers provide a safe haven for children of all ages. They might stay at their new homes for just a few months, or sometimes years, depending on the circumstances.
According to recent Scottish Government statistics, there are 15,892 children currently accommodated by local authorities - a four per cent increase on the previous year.
The number of children being looked after by foster carers is at its highest recorded level.
As a result, more carers are urgently needed.
Falkirk Council is looking to recruit more people to become foster parents to ensure that local children taken into care can remain close to their friends and relatives.
Currently, a few kids, most of them teenagers, are placed with families in neighbouring council areas such as North Lanarkshire.
It’s a situation that Pauline Cochrane wants to change. A social worker based in Grangemouth, she helps new recruits prepare for the job and then keeps in regular contact with them, offering support and advice when necessary.
She’s hoping more people in the Falkirk district will sign up as foster carers once they realise the benefits that come with the job.
“It’s the chance to make a difference to someone’s life,” she said.
“You’re providing a stable environment. We know the benefits that brings to any child.
“Raising kids is a community job, we all have a responsibility to look out for the welfare of children, and fostering is part of that.”
The Falkirk Herald met with Pauline and three long-term foster carers as part of Foster Care Fortnight, a national awareness campaign that runs until May 27.
Gina Driscoll, from New Carron, was a mother of two young kids when she first became a carer.
“I saw the advert and thought it was something I could do,’’ she said.
‘‘It provided me with the opportunity to be paid to stay at home, allowing me to look after my own kids, which I was very keen to do at the time.”
Carolann Murray, along with her husband John, looked after teenage brother and sister Mercy and Daniel for several years.
They have now grown up, but still keep in regular contact with the Murrays and return to visit their Carronshore home.
“No two kids are ever the same,” she said. “If you look after someone from the age of 12, you can give them the stability the need and it can make such a difference to their lives.”
Maria Dewar has looked after “hundreds” of kids at her home in Bo’ness during her 20 years as a carer. She says that her own children benefited from the experience of having other kids living with them.
“They have a lot of empathy and understanding with the kids being looked after. It give them confidence.”
All three agree that fostering is an extremely worthwhile and rewarding job.
Gina added: “People always say to you ‘I don’t know how you can hand them back’. But handing them back is a positive, it shows they are ready to move on with their lives, and you’ve helped them achieve that.
And there’s always the opportunity to keep in contact with them through the support network.”
For more information about Falkirk Council fostering services, call (01324) 508656 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.