A Bexhill fostering agency is calling on people to become carers to help tackle the 1,100 needed in the south east.
5Fostering is supporting Foster Care Fortnight 2016, which starts today (Monday, May 16), and wants more potential foster parents to take the plunge and change a child’s life.
The Fostering Network, the charity behind the event, claims 9,070 foster families are needed in the UK and is backed by reality television stars and celebrity chefs.
One of 5Fostering’s carers Andy Lawes encouraged anyone considering fostering to go for it after experiencing first-hand the rewards it has brought his family.
“Having been foster carers with 5Fostering for nearly two years, I can highly recommend taking fostering up,” he said.
“We have gone through many emotions, and have opened our home to six children in this time – all have benefited from having a nurturing family help guide them through difficult times.
“It is sometimes difficult for the foster family too and having the right support from friends, family and agency is crucial to helping young and vulnerable children.
“The reward is seeing these people grow and develop into well-behaved young people developing new skills to help them in life’s journey.”
The Fostering Network is calling for 9,070 foster families to come forward right across the UK to give loving homes and supportive family environments to children – with 7,600 foster families in England, 800 in Scotland, 500 in Wales, and 170 in Northern Ireland.
In particular, there is an ongoing need for more foster families to provide homes for teenagers, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and sibling groups.
A survey to mark the start of the fostering fortnight revealed carers do not have to be a good cook to foster, as most people in care believed all is needed is to provide security, support and love.
Around two thirds of the 261 children and young adults said making them feel safe and secure was key. While important for some, only 14 per cent thought that being a good cook was an important skill in a foster carer.
Stars of The Only Way Is Essex, Debbie Douglas and Lydia Bright, took place in a 20 minute bake off to highlight the fact that a child comes into care needing a foster family every 20 minutes in the UK.
Debbie has been a foster carer for more than 20 years and urged anyone considering it to stop thinking and ‘just do it’.
“We’re certainly not a baking family, but every child who has entered our home has enriched our lives, as we hope we have enriched theirs,” she said.
“I think sticking to reality TV and making sure that the children who come into our home feel loved and secure works best for us.”
“You don’t have to be a superhuman, you just need to be loving, understanding and resilient.”
Lydia Bright, who grew up in a fostering family from the age of two, said: “I’ve never known a life without being part of a fostering family.
“My friends at school used to complain it was boring at home, but being a part of a fostering family meant I never felt alone as a child.”
Without more foster families coming forward during 2016, some children will find themselves living a long way from family, school and friends, being split up from brothers and sisters, or being placed with an unsuitable carer.
There is then a significant risk that a child’s placement will breakdown, further disrupting an already traumatic childhood.
The Fostering Network’s chief executive Kevin Williams said: “Foster care can provide children with a home for as long as they need it, and this survey shows that children and young people want stability during their time with a fostering family.
“If you have room in your heart, and in your home, then 2016 could be the year that you start to make a positive difference to a child – a positive difference that can last a lifetime.”
5Fostering, rated as ‘good’ by watchdog Ofsted, provides 24/7 support and tailored training by experts with many years of experience to help make it easier for everyone.
“If you have a spare bedroom and feel fostering might be something you can do call a local agency as we did, the training and backup is second to none,” Andy said.
“The leaders of our agency are both well acquainted with the practicalities of fostering as they have fostering experience of more than 30 years and if we have a problem we are unsure of, we can talk it through and call on their experience and expertise.
“There are many children waiting for carers locally and nationally and it’s great to work with a brilliant local family-run agency, so do give them a call – and you get paid for it.”
5Fostering considers referrals for fostering placements from all over the south of England; from Cornwall to Milton Keynes, Kent and their home of Sussex.
A social worker for a local authority recently described them as ‘proactive in supporting the young person’, and one of its foster carers said: “they should be very proud of what they have achieved.”
The charity will be in town centres across the region to give information to all those that need it – Hastings on May 16, 20 and 25, Lewes on May 17 and 26, Eastbourne on May 18, 23 and 27, and Newhaven on May 24.
Meet the team and find out about becoming a foster carer and begin the journey to making a difference to a child or young persons’ life.
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