HUNDREDS of children were being looked after by foster families in Somerset last year, figures show, as an annual campaign to raise awareness of the value of fostering begins.

Each year, children's charity the Fostering Network organises Foster Care Fortnight, celebrating the work of the UK’s foster carers and raising the profile of fostering across the country.

Figures from the Department for Education show there were 360 fostered children in Somerset at the end of March 2021 – down from 377 the year before.

Separate figures from Ofsted, which cover placements organised by local authority, show around 250 households offered to foster – including around 60 newly-approved households in the latest year.

Around a third of all fostering households in England are found by independent fostering agencies, which are not included in Ofsted's figures.

Children’s charities have used Foster Care Fortnight to talk about the positive impacts of fostering on both children and carers.

Andy Elvin, CEO of the Adolescent and Children’s Trust, an organisation which matches children with placements, said foster parents describe the experience as "incredibly rewarding."

But although there were more than 7,000 vacant places across England in March last year, including around 45 in Somerset, Mr Elvin warns the charity has been struggling to find homes for teenagers in particular.

“There is a misconception that teenagers who are in foster care are difficult, that they are in care because of something that they have done – but this is not the case.

“Like all children in foster care, regardless of their age, teenagers are in need of a safe, secure home and carers who can see their potential and help them to achieve it.”

There were some 57,330 children receiving foster care across England as of the end of March 2021.