‘Do something amazing’: Wimbledon dad promotes Foster Care Fortnight as charity reveals London care crisis
The critical shortage of foster carers – 1,020 in London alone – is being highlighted by Foster Care Fortnight, as charities attempt to dispel negative myths about caring for foster children.
It takes a special kind of person to invite a stranger into their home to live as part of the family and SWL met a Wimbledon family who have done just that as Foster Care Fortnight kicks off this week.
Peter, 40, from Wimbledon, and his wife began fostering after offering to look after the son of some friends who were going through difficult times.
Peter said: “It led us to think if we were prepared to open up our home to a child who we sort of knew, why not for a child who we don’t know but who needs a loving, stable home?
“We were keen to find a way of contributing to our local community and felt that we had the skills and experience to be able to offer something to fostering.
“Our faith, as Christians, was also a significant motivation.”
Peter and his wife, who have been foster carers for four years and have ‘loved every minute of it’, passionately promote fostering to their friends and have seen a couple of them become foster carers.
He said: “If you have a spare room and the desire to be a foster carer then you should absolutely pursue the idea. There’s a real need for more foster carers, so you’d be doing something amazing; but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
“One thing that a lot of people say to us is that they couldn’t do it because they’d find it too difficult to say goodbye to children they’ve grown to love.
“Of course, this is difficult and can be emotionally stressful, but there’s nothing special about us and we’ve been fine, as have our two birth children.
“I’ve heard many people say that they haven’t got the skills or resilience to do it, but in most cases that probably isn’t true.”
The Foster Care Fortnight awareness-raising campaign, run by the Fostering Network charity, also aims to encourage a diverse range of people with the right skills and qualities to come forward.
The vast majority of children in care in the UK are fostered – around 63,000 children live with more than 52,500 foster families each day.
The Fostering Network charity is an umbrella group that links up more than 400 fostering services and foster families.
They champion foster families for the vital role they play in transforming children’s lives, and are trying to change the misconceptions around fostering that have led, in part, to the shortage.
Earlier this year the charity announced that at least 8,370 new foster families were needed in 2015 across the UK to provide stable homes for record numbers of fostered children.
Director of communications, Jackie Sanders, said: “Not being able to find the right foster carer also means that children too often have to live a long way from family, friends and school and are split up from their brothers and sisters.
“Finding the right foster carer, at the outset of a child’s journey in care, can lead to stability, improved relationships and a positive experience of childhood.”
There are a number of reasons why people do not come forward to foster. Some of these centre on myths and misconceptions around and the belief that a specialist knowledge or experience is required.
Ms Sanders said: “It’s important to get the message across that fostering can be challenging but is also really rewarding, and is often about giving children their first real experience of positive family life.
“Some will return home or live with a member of their wider family, while a small minority are awaiting adoption.
“Many will live with foster families throughout their childhoods, which is why it is so important to find the right family for these children.”
Last year the Fostering Network celebrated its 40th anniversary, it has grown exponentially since the Camden Association of Foster Parents first thought to link up with other groups of foster carers and social workers.
This meeting led to the foundation of the National Foster Care Association, known since 2001 as the Foster Network.
Over the next fortnight, fostering services will be holding events in London and across the UK to raise awareness of the need for more foster families.
Picture courtesy of vastateparksstaff, with thanks