“Give a child a chance and a future”, urges foster care team
There are about 65,000 children living with 55,000 foster families throughout the UK… and every 20 minutes another child comes into care needing a foster family.
However, there is always a shortfall of carers – in Shropshire alone, another 25 are urgently needed to ensure that local children can remain close to their social and family networks, as well as continue at their current school.
That’s the background to this year’s Foster Care Fortnight, which takes place from today (Monday 13 May 2019) until Sunday 26 May 2019.
Lisa Preston, responsible for leading on Shropshire’s fostering service, said:-
“Fostering, for many children, can be their first positive experience of family life, and our carers do an incredible job of providing them with the stability and confidence they need.
“Carers literally change the future for the children they care for, giving them a chance to rebuild their lives from what can be very difficult circumstances.
“But every year, as the number of children needing a home rises, some carers drop out of the system – so we constantly need to grow the pool so that children and young people coming into care are able to live with a carer whose skills and experience meet their individual needs.
“Nationally, there is a particular need for carers to come forward to foster teenagers, sibling groups and children with complex needs – and Shropshire is no different.
“Our priority is to recruit enough local carers to avoid Shropshire children having to go out of the county to be looked after.”
So, who can foster?
“Our carers come from all walks of life, so never assume that ‘your face won’t fit’. Your age, gender and ethnic background are not barriers to being a great foster carer, and neither do you need to own your own home or have a partner. You simply need to be able to give the support and care that a child needs.
“Often any challenges you’ve faced in life can be a real attribute.
“Many carers who already have children, or a disability that makes it hard to leave the home, are able to make it a full-time role, enabled by the fees and allowances we provide. Others combine fostering with a part or even full-time job. Because our children have such diverse needs, we can fit fostering around you. The great support network we provide means that no one is ever on their own.”
Claire from Much Wenlock is a carer who found space in her heart and in her home for fostering after her marriage broke down, and she was left trying to look after her disabled son and doing 12-hour days to keep the money coming in.
“That’s when I looked at the possibility of being a foster carer, remaining at home to be there for my son but also able to let other children into my life. I never felt that there were any barriers to being a foster carer as a single parent. I felt supported by friends and family; my son was going out to day centres, was very settled and had his own life. And the social services team couldn’t have been more supportive.
“If you have the time and space in your life, you won’t regret it – and don’t imagine it’s not for you because you are single or, like me, because you have a child of your own with disabilities… or if you are disabled yourself. Often that experience will give you a unique perspective as well as empathy and patience.
“I’ve fostered many children since it all began, and I’d like to think that I’ve given each child a chance to get through a difficult time and grow as young people.”
One key concern for every prospective carer who already has children is how their own family will cope with sharing their home.
At the time she started, Ludlow-based foster carer Louise’s eldest daughter was 10.
“How would my own children react to another child coming into their home was obviously a big consideration. I needn’t have worried. They were fine about it and I could see that they were gaining from it too. They were interacting with the foster children and realising they were not any different to them. In fact, without the support of all of my family, I just couldn’t have done it!”
That was nearly 30 years ago, and – 150 children later – Louise has no regrets. She has been short-term fostering for all those years – that can mean anything from a few days to a few months as the child’s parents resolve a situation in their own lives or the child is adopted. She also provides placements for young mothers and their babies – helping them adapt to the sometimes-daunting task of having your first child when you may not have a lot of family support locally.
“Looking back it seemed like an obvious thing to do. I knew that not enough people were coming forward to give children homes – which meant that many were going into residential care. I thought: ‘Why not me?’”
Ed Potter, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for children’s services, said:
“All sorts of people from all walks of life can and do foster. You get plenty of time during the application process to decide whether it really is you – and you’re never under any obligation to continue. There’s always advice on hand and lots of training available. People who want to foster simply need to care about children, have good communication skills, have a spare room and be ready for a challenge.”
If fostering sounds like something you could do, then why not get in touch on 0800 783 8798 or visit shropshire.gov.uk/fostering.