Figures published today by the Fostering Network shows that the number of children who need foster care has risen from 49,700 in 2005 to over 59,000 in 2011.
The charity said that a shortage of foster families results in a growing number of children being forced to live in residential care, move away from their family home or be separated from their siblings.
An extra 7,100 foster carers are needed in England, 1,000 in Scotland, 550 in Wales and 100 in Northern Ireland – figures that the charity has called “alarming”.
Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network, said if more families don’t come forward, there could be a “real crisis”.
“All children in care need a family they can grow up with, who can love them, be ambitious for them and help them achieve their potential. For a growing number, foster care is the best option,” he said, adding that “foster carers come from all walks of life, from teachers to factory workers and builders to nurses.”
The government launched the Give a Child a Home campaign in October last year to encourage adoption and fostering.
Councils that fail to place children with adoptive or foster parents were named and shamed by the government, as part of a crackdown on poor performing authorities.