Foster carers in Southwark have shared their experiences in a bid to encourage more people to consider becoming carers themselves.
As part of Foster Care Fortnight – taking place from May 14-27 – four foster carers in the borough have described the reality of fostering a child.
Dave has been caring for children since 1972 and currently cares for a teenage girl with learning difficulties.
He started fostering with his wife but has continued as a single carer since she passed away in 2012.
“Fostering as a single man is not something I ever envisaged or thought about,” he said.
“To be honest, after my wife died I didn’t think I would be able to carry on fostering.
“Social workers from Southwark Council spoke to the children and I was glad to hear they both adamantly wanted to stay with me.
“I’m glad I have been able to finish what my wife and I started.
“As many people say, fostering is a vocation not a job and it’s with good reason; fostering is not a nine-to-five job.
“The best thing about fostering is seeing a child grow in confidence and leave care full of self-esteem and making a go of life.
“To anyone thinking of fostering, I say go for it. Your life will be enriched and you will be helping someone who really needs it.”
Debbie and Paul have been fostering since 2015 and are currently caring for a teenage boy.
“I wanted to become a foster carer and especially a foster carer for Southwark Council because it’s where I live and I think it is important Southwark people foster Southwark children,” said Debbie.
“We found ourselves in a situation where our youngest went away to university and we were rattling around a three-bedroom flat and it’s a joy to have youngsters coming into the home.
“It’s something that we both wish we had done sooner.
“We’re looking after a teenager at the moment; I think there can be a lot of sensationalised stories about caring for older children.
“With teenagers you still have to be there and parent but they also like to have their own time.
“He’s part of our family and other foster children that we’ve had look up to him for advice.”
Stella, who has been fostering for eighteen years and has looked after over 60 children, said: “If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me about the children I’ve cared for I can tell you each one’s date of birth and why they came to me.
“That’s how they are to me; I always want to know what they are doing and how they are, even after they leave me.
“This Christmas we had over 20 of our children back.
“This time they came back with their partners and their children. Seeing them now and remembering them how they were – that’s the reward.”
Councillor Victoria Mills, cabinet member for children and schools, said: “Fostering is not without its challenges but many carers describe it as the best thing they have ever done.
“There is no such thing as a typical foster carer; our carers come from different walks of life and family make up.
“It is vitally important that we recruit more foster carers to provide stable and loving homes for children who are going through really difficult times.”
An information event will be held at Surrey Quays shopping centre on Redriff Road, SE16 7LL, from 9.30am to 4pm on Friday, June 8.
Anyone who has a spare room and is interested in finding out more can call 0800 952 0707 or email the council.
Southwark residents fostering Southwark children get a 100 per cent discount on their council tax as well as additional allowances for birthdays, festivities, and holiday and technology purchases.
There are regular information events held throughout the year usually on the second Tuesday of every month in Canada Water Library, 21 Surrey Quays Road, SE16 7AR, from 5.30pm to 7pm.