Sheffield City Council is appealing for more families to help change the lives of children and young people throughout the city by becoming foster carers. There are currently 290 fostering households in Sheffield who look after more than 280 children but there are not enough prospective foster carers coming forward.
Sheffield City Council is supporting Foster Care Fortnight, which runs nationally between 12 and 25 May. The council hopes to raise the profile of fostering locally to recruit at least 40 new foster carers over the next 12 months and would also like to thank their existing carers for the fantastic work they do.
Liz Spaven, Fostering and Adoption Service Manager at Sheffield City Council, said: “There is a real shortage of foster carers nationwide and Sheffield is no different. We already have a dedicated team of foster carers in Sheffield, but we urgently need new foster carers, especially for teenagers, sibling groups and for young people who need a long term stable home.
“Becoming a foster carer can be a challenge and entails more than just providing a child with a roof over their head. It’s about helping them to grow up happy, healthy and with the confidence to reach their potential in a loving home.
“Most people can be a foster carer and we will support people every step of the way. Being a foster carer is a professional vocation with lots of benefits, including generous allowances so people can really invest in building a loving family life for a vulnerable child. We hope Foster Care Fortnight really inspires people to take the next step and find out how they can really do something special to improve a child’s life.”
Part of this year’s campaign will involve dispelling myths about who can foster. This year’s ‘Guess Who Fosters’ theme shows the diverse range of people who can become foster carers. Most people can be a foster carer, whether they are single, divorced, widowed, retired, unemployed or working. Foster carers can also be from any ethnic and cultural background and be gay, straight or bisexual. The level of care offered can vary from those offering short breaks or temporary care to providing a permanent home for a child or young person.
CASE STUDY 1
Martin Betts, 49, of Middlewood in Sheffield.
Martin was inspired to become a foster carer three years ago following a seven-year career in the army and then as a builder. His son, James, had just turned 18. He has fostered eight children and young people so far as a single man and says it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.
He now cares for two brothers aged nine and 11 on a permanent basis.
He said: “When I came out of the army I thought being a single man would prevent me from being a foster carer so I was surprised to find that I could. My two sisters were foster carers at the time so I saw first-hand how much they contributed to the lives of the children they looked after and how rewarding they found it.
“After bringing my son up on my own I thought I would give it a go and when I spoke to James he said he thought I’d done a good job raising him on my own and I should go for it. That really gave me the confidence to pursue being a foster carer.
“The selection process was rigorous, but worth it. I was a little apprehensive at first because I didn’t know what child I’d be asked to look after and what problems they might have or what background they had come from. I’d been lucky with my own son James, he was a perfect little lad who never got into trouble, but I was prepared for a challenge.
“The first boy who came to me had ADHD and had trouble making friends but by the time he left me we had really turned his life around and he was a smashing lad. I was absolutely devastated to let him go. That was the biggest hurdle I’ve overcome as a carer because I really loved him and wanted to keep him.
“Now I have two brothers aged nine and 11 and I get on really well with them. They were originally looked after by my sister. It’s so nice for me to have young children around the house again, it’s full of noise, smiles and laughter. They bring me such joy and we go out every weekend and do something new.
“Seeing the difference you can make to a young person’s life has been the most rewarding experience of my life. You can help bring a smile back to their faces and hearing them tell you they love you when they thought no one would ever love them makes it all worthwhile.
“My life is obviously completely different now and I don’t socialise as much but I was willing to give that up.
“I would highly recommend becoming a foster carer and there are loads of support networks out there and training opportunities to help you. I’ve worked for 33 years and this is my way of giving something back to the community and I find it rewarding too.”
CASE STUDY 2
Louise and Lee Parkin of Sheffield.
Louise became a foster carer five years ago following a career as a child minder. Her husband Lee, 40, also enjoyed fostering so much he also became a full time foster carer and they involve their own children Georgia, 15, and nine-year-old Amy every step of the way.
The couple are now fostering a girl and a boy aged four and two and say they love their career and have never looked back.
Louise, 42, said: “It was obviously very daunting when we got our first child, knowing we were responsible for someone else’s welfare and to keep them safe. But we both loved it straight away and felt strongly that this was our opportunity to give something back to the community.
“Anyone can be a foster carer, people from all walks of life. But I think you do have to have certain attributes, such as a caring and nurturing personality, you have to be a good advocate and be willing to speak up for the children and fight their cause sometimes. You also have to be supportive and be willing to deal with the upheaval and changes a flow of children bring to your life. One of the things we love about fostering is that every day is different.
“Although it never gets easier giving up the children we’ve had because we’ve loved them all it’s incredibly rewarding seeing the changes in their lives and how far they have come. Once they go onto the adoption process I see it as a cause for celebration because they are one step closer to getting a permanent family and we’ve played our part in helping them get there.
“I think potential foster carers have reservations about the impact it may have on their own children but we love doing this as a family and we talk about the potential of someone new coming to live with us together beforehand every time. My children really love it. My younger daughter Amy is so friendly and welcoming and sees everyone as a play mate and my older daughter Georgia is so nurturing it has inspired her to want to progress a career in social care or something very child centred.
“They have never been jealous or felt left out and if anything it has made them value us as parents and be more appreciative of the loving, stable home they have. It’s made them more empathetic and they are kind and considerate kids because of who they have welcomed into our home. We make sure they get their own time with us and that makes a big difference.
“We’ve looked after about 10 children, including the two we have now, and we’ve stayed in contact with many of them. It’s always wonderful to hear from them and to know they are doing well, whether they have been adopted or are with another family long-term.
“I would recommend fostering to anyone because it’s a great way to give something back to your community. Of course it’s going to be difficult and emotional at times but for us it’s been a family affair and really rewarding.”
For more information about Foster Care Fortnight visit www.fostering.net/foster-care-fortnight.