Urgent appeal for more foster families
PUBLISHED: 12:00 11 January 2020
A foster carer from North Somerset is encouraging people to volunteer for the rewarding role to enable more children to find homes in the area.
Jo and Martin gave up their jobs so they could become full-time foster carers and they have looked after 10 children over the past eight years, including one boy who lives with them long-term.
Jo says fostering is not easy, but the highs outweigh the lows 'gazillions of times over'.
She said: "It's hard. But to be able to make a difference by nurturing and caring for them is the most amazing thing in the world.
"It's about giving them skills, encouraging them and just treating them like your own.
"Some children have lived in homes where they haven't had boundaries, some have had nothing.
"They've got to learn to live in a home with possessions and people and it can take a while for them to settle in.
"But every day there's something that puts a smile on your face. The highs outweigh the lows gazillions of times over."
Jo and Martin have looked after one boy since he was nine and he is now a happy teenager with a bright future ahead of him.
He is at college, has a part-time job and gives talks at foster care training sessions to show people what a difference families can make.
Jo said: "He says he loves his life. When he first came to us, all he had were the clothes on his back and a little red car.
"He's now got a wonderful future in front of him. I'm so proud of him. It makes it all worthwhile.
"When it's hard and you're presented with something you have never experienced before, you think back and look at the children you have cared for.
"As long as they are happy and they feel safe, then you have done a good job."
There are approximately 240 children being looked after by North Somerset Council - 170 of these are cared for by foster families.
Foster carer appeal
The council is keen to recruit 60 new carers over the next three years to enable children to be placed with families in North Somerset.
There is currently a shortage of carers, which means children are sent outside the district - often as far as London or Gloucestershire.
This leads to children being ripped away from friends, schools, clubs, family members and familiar surroundings, which causes them even more distress.
It is also a lot more expensive for the council to pay for care outside of North Somerset.
Clare McCarthy, the council's consultant social worker, said: "Some children have very small impoverished lives when living at home, but there's always good in it - brothers and sisters, a favourite teacher.
"There are protective factors that keep people going.
"Children often feel punished when they are taken from parents - they question whether it is because of something they have done.
"If they don't end up living in their community, they can't go to school, can't see their friends - they are just further disadvantaged and more traumatised.
"Our ambition is that every child in North Somerset who needs a foster family will have a local family."
Working with families
The council works closely with the families of foster children, with the hope of reuniting them in the future.
One of the most challenging, but rewarding times for foster carers is saying goodbye to children they have cared for as their own.
Clare said: "If you don't love those children completely, they couldn't develop and get over the trauma that's in their lives.
"I think it's a huge ask - love them like your own, love them completely, get up with them in the night when they're sick, and then when you get the right match, you've got to let them go, which is devastating."
Foster carers are given invaluable training and support and the council has also just launched a pilot project entitled Mockingbird - a hub of foster families who support each other and spend time together.
Jo is urging anyone interested in fostering to find out more.
When talking about the qualities you need to be a foster carer, she said: "Sense of humour has got to be my top one, also resilience and patience.
"You've obviously got to be caring, understanding, non-judgemental and able to meet their needs, because they are all unique. They are all amazing."
Anyone interested in finding out more about foster caring, can call 01275 888999.
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