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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Lack of foster carers in region
Esme and Esme and Jermaine Atiya-Alla
Jermaine Atiya-Alla (right) said fostering gave him family security
Another 600 foster carers are needed to look after vulnerable children in Devon and Cornwall, according to a charity.

A survey carried out by the Fostering Network blames the low rates of pay on offer for the shortage of carers.

The shortage means many youngsters have to move far from families and schools and are separated from siblings.

Many local authorities agree carers should be paid more, but say they would need extra funding from the government.

I actually felt like I was a member of that family
Jermaine Atiya-Alla, former foster child
Esme Atiya-Alla from Paignton, Devon, who used to be a foster mother, says the job is a vital one.

She said: "It's desperately needed to help parents, to give them a break.

"Foster parents give the child stability, protection from whatever's happening, and unbiased love."

Ms Atiya-Alla has six adopted children, aged between five and 19, who all spent time in foster care before they were adopted.

Her 18-year-old son, Jermaine, spent six years with one foster family before he was adopted at the age of 10.

He believes fostering gave him the security he needed and made him feel settled.

"I actually felt like I was a member of that family", said Jermaine.

Councillor John Smith, from Devon County Council, said he believes more funding from central government is needed.

Mr Smith says Devon spends more on children's services than the allocation it receives from the government.

The Department for Education and Skills says it is committed to ensuring carers receive an allowance which covers the full cost of caring for a foster child.

It says 113m has already been invested to help expand fostering services around the country.

Foster carer shortage 'critical'
24 Aug 04  |  Lincolnshire
Children 'failed' by carer system
23 Aug 04  |  England

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