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Lucy Stevens - 29th November 2021
This week two carers from Eastern Fostering Services spoke to ITV News* about fostering. They were asked why more people aren’t putting themselves forward for the role.
In truth, fostering presents a bit of a challenge. It is a vocation that must be thought about, understood, and prepared for. It is not a decision that you want people to rush into. Fostering is hard work and requires resilience and commitment. Conversely, there is a significant shortage of foster carers in the UK and an increasing number of children entering foster care, so we need to recruit more carers quickly.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks in the recruitment of foster carers is misinformation. Many people don’t fully understand how the system works, what is required of foster carers and what the criteria for approval are. We often hear people say, “I would foster if….”. But what if the if wasn’t really an if at all?
So, the first step in encouraging people into fostering is to inform them properly. When prospective carers are well informed, they tend to go into the process with their eyes open and therefore make more committed and resilient foster carers.
We’ve produced a collection of the most common questions or misapprehensions so that people can easily access the information they need.
During the recent lockdowns, we saw a good number of people enquire into becoming foster carers. At the time, I remember fearing this was a knee-jerk reaction. People were looking for something more meaningful. They were worried for their jobs. They wanted to rethink their lives and their possibilities. And you can’t fault that mindset. However, as things have slowly opened up, we have seen many of these prospective carers fall away. Life has resumed.
Meanwhile in the fostering world, we are seeing an opposite trend. We are not seeing the number of children fall away. We’re seeing large numbers of children and young people coming into foster care. Because there is such a small pool of foster carers, Local Authorities are struggling to give these children safe, nurturing homes. They are also struggling to find good, robust matches for them. This all means the likelihood of securing stable, secure homes for the most vulnerable group in society is greatly reduced. Children are placed in unsuitable accommodation or in foster homes which are unlikely to last the distance. We simply need a larger pool of foster carers with all the diversity they bring. A diverse pool of carers means better matching possibilities, and this gives children and foster carers the best chance for stability.
So, why should people foster?
Fostering can be incredibly rewarding. As our carers told ITV News, many of the rewards aren’t immediate. Foster carers generally understand that fostering is a long game. Yes, there are always relatively quick wins. For example, when you see children settle, when you see a reduction in certain behaviours. Seeing a child begin to trust you and form a bond with you is hugely rewarding for foster carers. Yet, in truth, many foster carers may not fully appreciate the rewards until some years later.
Many young people who have spent time in foster care may not have the safety net of a loving family. This is something many of us take for granted; when it all goes wrong, we rock up at our parents’ door, washing in hand. Not so, for many young people in the UK. Foster carers will truly know they have made a difference when they get that phone call sharing good news, when the young person gets that job they’ve been after. Wanting to tell you the good things as well as coming to you when it all goes wrong is one of the hall marks of successful fostering!
Another of our foster carers recently spoke of young sisters who they cared for. The plan for these children was adoption. In the end and with a huge amount of support and advocating by the foster carers, these children were adopted by a family member. Our carer said, “You wouldn’t believe how well they are doing. We get regular photos and updates. Our hearts were broken when they left and yet to see them so happy, so loved and doing so well – that’s the biggest reward of all.”
Fostering is diverse. The children we care for are all different. The rewards are therefore varied and often difficult to put into words. Yet, I would say all good foster carers go into fostering with one aim: to make a positive difference in the lives of children. That may look different for each and every child, but it will be there when you look closely.
*Look out for us on ITV Anglia News this week commencing 29th November!
If you’d like to explore the possibility of fostering, please contact us. There is very little that could stop you being considered, and you could truly, truly make a difference. Email us as email@example.com or call us on 01206 299775. Alternatively, you can find us on Facebook.