‘Fostering has humbled us’ – could you give a child a second chance at life?
PUBLISHED: 18:00 15 January 2020
Every child deserves to have a safe base and to grow up in a loving, supporting environment which nurtures their confidence and self-esteem. But in the UK alone, a new child is bought into care needing a foster family every 20 minutes.
In the UK, the number of children waiting to be fostered is rapidly growing. In March 2019, 54,870 out of the 75,420 children in care away from home were living with foster families in England, but fostering services need approximately 7,220 more families to open up their homes to children in need.
Could you help?
East Anglian-based Eastern Fostering Services (EFS) is currently looking for families, couples and individuals to foster in the region. The small team makes great efforts to create the best possible matches by getting to know each child and carers and providing high-quality support around the clock every day.
EFS aims to find excellent carers and support them in providing secure and nurturing homes for some of the most vulnerable children in society. Carers are given training, development and a competitive fostering allowance, with Ofsted describing them as 'very well supported, respected and valued.'
To become a foster carer, you just need to be over the age of 21 and have a spare room for the child to occupy - that's it! There are no other limitations; many carers have disabilities or health conditions of their own, are single, do not own their own home or work full time.
EFS's fostering development manager Lucy Stevens says: "Successful foster carers need to be resilient. Children need their foster parents to be warm and nurturing, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent, but most importantly, to have a genuine motivation and passion to make a difference to the lives of children.
"The challenges of fostering are diverse and can range from managing challenging behaviour, to addressing emotional distress and working with birth families," Lucy adds.
"We carefully match children with foster parents - the length of the placements will vary depending on the plan for the individual child. On average, our planned long-term fostering placements last 18 months," she says. "Currently, however we have many children who have been with our carers between two and five years."
EFS provides an allowance for foster families. It's important to note that this allowance enables carers to provide for the children in their care. The amount each family receives depends on the specific needs of the children and the referring local authority pay structure. In general foster carers can expect to receive £350 to £495 per week.
Lucy adds: "Children in foster care have all experienced loss and trauma to some degree. Healing takes time and is hard won, but carers need to be able to see the glimmers of this in action and take heart from it. Seeing a child flourish at home and at school are often signs that the carers are making a huge difference to a child - it's an incredibly rewarding experience."
Julie Lemessurier is a foster parent from EFS who shared what it's like and how the experience changed everyday life for her and her family.
"I wanted to be a foster parent for 27 years, so I guess you could say that it was a life-long wish. One of the most rewarding factors about being a foster parent is knowing you're giving a child a chance in life by providing them with a family and someone to fight their corner; you could say that it's an ever-learning roundabout which is always changing, challenging and rewarding. Over time, children learn to be brave, content and comfortable as a member of the family, while developing a sense of belonging. By fostering, my family has given children security, lots of love and a safe place to grow. They always have someone there for them, a place to belong and support to build their confidence.
"I am currently raising two foster boys with the help of my husband and birth children. I am proud to know that I am making a difference to a child's life, and it has been amazing to see my family grow together. My husband and I have loved seeing our birth children develop and adapt while helping to raise our foster children, which has given them real strength and compassion. Our birth children say that it has helped them become more family orientated and that they have enjoyed building a strong framework which provides a supportive and secure environment for our foster children. Our family life may not be as chilled as it could be but it's so rewarding; fostering has humbled us. Every child deserves safety, love, warmth and to be part of a family - providing this by fostering will transform the life of a child, and every family member involved. It really is an enjoyable, mind-blowing and rewarding experience."