Foster carers in Southwark have shared their experiences as part of a campaign celebrating those who offer a home to young people who can’t live with their families, writes Josh Mellor…
Foster Care Fortnight is an annual campaign to show how offering children a home can transform lives and encourage new people to think about becoming foster carers.
Since 1972, Dave has been caring for children, currently for a teenage girl with learning difficulties.
He said: “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.
“Yes, it’s hard at first but you get oodles of training and lots of support.”
Dave considered giving up after his wife passed away in 2012 but the children living with him were adamant about staying with him.
“I’m glad I have been able to finish what my wife and I started,” he said.
The Foster Care Network, who run the campaign, say that carers usually specialise in caring for a particular age group.
Newer recruits Debbie and Paul have fostered since 2015 and are currently caring for a teenager.
“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,” Debbie explained.
“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.
Debbie said: “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.
“You only ever hear about the ‘impossible teenagers’ and that’s not the case for everyone.
“You don’t hear about the good things!”
The length of stay for foster children can vary from very short-term to the duration of their childhood.
Stella has cared for over sixty children and this Christmas twenty of them returned to visit her with their partners and children.
“I always say, fostering is not just a young person or a child coming into your home and you providing a roof and a safe environment: it’s about love,” she said.
“If you woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me about the children I’ve cared for, over sixty children, I can tell you each ones date of birth and why they came to me.
“I can tell you that, but ask me what I had for breakfast and I can’t remember!”
Southwark Council cabinet member for children, schools and adult care Jasmine Ali, who is an adoptive mum herself, encouraged anyone with room in their heart and space in their home for a child to get in touch.
She said: “I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to all of our fantastic Southwark foster carers who open their homes to children when they need it the most.
“As a proud adoptive mum I know from personal experience the crucial role that foster carers play in the lives of the children in our care.
“The impact that foster carers can have on a young person just cannot be underestimated, providing a safe and loving home for a child who is going through a really difficult time can have a profound effect on a young person for the rest of their lives.
“Fostering is of course 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 incredibly important that we recruit more foster carers and while fostering is of course not without its challenges, many carers describe it as the best thing they have ever done.
“If you have room in your heart and space in your home for a child in need please do get in touch with our services.”
If you are interested in finding out more please call 0800 952 0707, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.southwark.gov.uk/childcare-and-parenting/fostering.
There are also regular information events held throughout the year on the second Tuesday of every month at Canada Water Library, 21 Surrey Quays Road, SE16 7AR between 5.45pm to 7.45pm.