Dave & Mary's Story...
Dave & Mary have been foster carers for The Foster Care Co-operative for twelve years, and live in Birmingham. They have fostered many children on a long term basis. Dave is also a trainer for the Skills To Foster course that The Foster Care Co-operative run for all new carers.
"When our youngest son was born visually impaired, my wife and I contemplated seeking some respite care. Whilst exploring this we discovered that there was a need for other children to be cared for. We initially registered with a Local Authority to provide weekend respite care for physically disabled young people.
Prior to retiring from the Police I had made plans to travel for an extended period of time, so we decided that we would suspend the fostering for a while to get the travelling out of our system - and on return to go for longer term foster placements.
We then moved to The Foster Care Co-operative. We were impressed with the ethos of the company: surplus income going straight back into the care of the children. We were also really impressed by their founder, Laurie Gregory – particularly his energy and vision for what he wanted for young people.
Coming from the police into foster care, I found that there were lots of transferrable skills. I knew I was adaptable as most officers are - but my analytical, communication and advocacy skills have always been useful. Also a sense of loyalty and commitment to good moral values are without doubt skills already honed in a tough profession.
The elements I find most rewarding about being a carer is trying to build relationships with young people who haven’t necessarily had the best start in life. Watching them arrive all shy and nervous - then spending time with them, building confidence and self-esteem and watching them grow and progress. Seeing them move into independent living has made us feel that we have really accomplished something - and that the young person is now better equipped to deal with what life will throw at them.
It’s not always easy; sometimes a young person’s behaviour can be a problem, but more than that it’s trying to find what’s behind it, why it occurs and how can we help the young person to turn their life around.
If you’re thinking of becoming a carer, I would say talk to other carers, do your research and attend a recruiting event. Discuss with your family what they think as at the end of the day it’s the family that fosters not the individual - everyone becomes involved and my boys and extended family are just as much a part of our fostering journey as we are."
Children in need of foster care in the Yorkshire and Humber are facing an uncertain future, a charity said, as a new survey showed that more than 87 per cent per cent of adults in the region showed little or no interest in fostering – the highest level in the country.
Action for Children said the lack of interest in fostering was down to “fear of the unknown” and the figures revealed the extent of the fostering “crisis”.
According to the Fostering Network, 610 foster families are needed across Yorkshire.
“These shocking figures reveal the true scale of the current fostering crisis,” said Action for Children North director John Egan.
“In Yorkshire and Humberside, we have more and more children and young people who desperately need the stability a foster carer can give them yet we have fewer and fewer foster parents.
“We think the lack of interest, in fostering teens in particular, is down to fear of the unknown as well as a shift towards a less altruistic society in general”, he added. “It can also be preconceptions about who can become a carer, with many people wrongly thinking they may not be suitable or have the skills.”
Former miner and grandfather-of-two Andy Fleming, 56, of Barnsley, began fostering with his wife Somsri two years ago. After being made redundant from mining in 1999, he worked in youth services.
He said: “Although I had a career working with young people and loved it, fostering is even more rewarding. In a 9-5 job you are limited to how much time you can spend with them, but as part of a family unit you really can make a difference and see them develop and progress.
“Of course there are challenges but it’s all about attitude.”
New guidance which aims to provide a framework of best practice to assist all parties in the implementation of staying put is being launched at the charity's conference taking place today in Durham. Staying Put: Guidance for Children and Young People Services, Fostering Services and Leaving Care Services is based on the legislation, statutory guidance and standards that govern services for looked after children, care leavers and fostering services in England.
Staying put came into law as part of the Children and Families Act 2014, which introduced a new duty on local authorities in England to advise, assist and support fostered young people to stay with their foster families when they reach 18, if both parties agree. This change to the law was achieved after a long campaign led by The Fostering Network.
Since then, The Fostering Network has been closely monitoring the implementation of the duty and while the numbers of young people staying put with their foster families has increased year on year we have not seen the step change we were hoping for or that we believe is needed. There is still a range of cultural, financial and logistical obstacles getting in the way of making staying put a reality for all young people who want it.
As well as launching the guidance, The Fostering Network has identified a number of specific obstacles which require central government action and is calling for the following changes:
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, said: ‘The change to the law was one of the proudest moments in the charity’s 40 year history, and ensuring that it works properly for all fostered young people who want to stay with their foster families remains a solid commitment for the charity.
'We hope this guidance will help to address some of the implementation issues experienced by the sector. At its heart, the guidance is a plea for fostering services – local authority and independent – to accept and understand that staying put is the new “norm”, and to go above and beyond to make it happen. Just as over the past 15 years there has been a shift away from expecting children to leave care at 16, we now need a sector-wide understanding that fostered young people should be able to live at home until they are 21, and a determination to make this happen.’
The full guidance can be found here.
Fostering News: The Big Issue - Fostering Network: Regardless of creed, home is at the heart of foster care
Whatever the truth of last week's media storm, Fostering Network's Chief Executive says the real story of foster care is how it's enabling thousands of young people to flourish
The UK’s fostering system was in the eye of a media storm last week after The Times claimed a young Christian girl had been placed with a Muslim family. Tower Hamlets council hit back at the “inaccuracies” of the story, saying that the girl had in fact been temporarily placed with an English-speaking family of mixed race. Fostering Network chief executive Kevin Williams says religion, culture, age or background are no barrier to fostering…
The fantastic job that tens of thousands of foster carers do looking after the 64,000 children and young people who are fostered every day rarely gets the acknowledgement it deserves.
Unfortunately, fostering did hit the headlines last week but not for the reasons it ought to. Worse still, these headlines are in danger of distracting from the real fostering story – that young people across the UK are flourishing because of the love and stability they receive from foster carers, and that thousands more foster carers are needed every year.
The story has also highlighted a significant lack of understanding of what fostering is and how it works, in particular how it is decided which foster family a child will live with.
"When a child comes into care needing a foster family, their needs will be assessed and prioritised"
When a child comes into care needing a foster family, their needs will be assessed and prioritised – these needs include health, education, proximity to family and school, hobbies and interests, cultural background, religion, language and so on. This is a complex process and, like in the rest of fostering, is one in which learning and improvement is being sought all the time.
There is no set hierarchy of needs that must be met – instead there is a hierarchy for each individual child, which should be decided on a case-by-case basis by social workers who know the child. For example, a child with a particular disability may benefit from a foster carer who has specialist knowledge in that disability, even if that foster carer is from a different religion.
The story last week focused on the issue of religion. Fostering services and foster carers must pay full attention to the child’s faith, culture, language and so on but with the right training and support this can happen in a fostering household where the faith or culture of the foster carers is different to the child they are caring for. Indeed, this is happening in thousands of fostering households every day.
There are many thousands of carers across the UK, often with good support from their fostering service, who have consistently gone the extra mile to support young people to stay connected with the faith and culture they were born into – even if they knew very little about that faith or culture before that young person came to live with them.
The recruitment of foster carers
Of course, having a wider pool of foster carers, with a wide range of skills, experiences, backgrounds, religions and languages, allows children to be placed with the foster carers who can best meet their particular needs.
With some foster carers retiring, and others looking after children in long-term placements, the pool can become smaller and therefore less diverse. This is why constant recruitment of foster carers, as well as the ongoing training of existing foster carers, is so necessary. So, what do foster carers do?
Foster carers are childcare experts and work as part of the professional team around the child. They are trained before being approved and have the opportunity to continue training while they foster.
"Foster carers are childcare experts and work as part of the professional team around the child"
Many foster carers specialise in certain areas that could include caring for children with specific needs and disabilities. They can also decide whether to care for children in an emergency situation, on a short-term basis or for a longer period of time as a more permanent placement for the child.
Children come into care for many different reasons. The dedication of thousands of foster carers across the country ensures that these children receive the love and support that they need for however long they need it when they can’t live with their birth family.
There are roughly 55,000 fostering households across the UK but over 7,000 more are needed this year alone. Choosing to foster is a big decision that will change the foster carer’s life and, most importantly, the lives of the children they care for.
Most fostering myths that people may have heard are probably false. People can foster if they are single or married, gay or straight, in their 20s or their 70s. As long as they have a spare room, are over 21 and have the skills and experience to meet the needs of children who may have experienced a traumatic start to life, then there’s very little stopping most people becoming a foster carer.
Don’t be misled by last week’s story. Every day there are thousands of children living with foster carers who are doing something quite incredible – wouldn’t it be great to see that on the front pages.
News & Jobs
News stories and job vacancies from our member agencies, the fostering sector and the world of child protection and safeguarding as a whole.
Browse News Archives