Foster carers in Southend-on-Sea have been sharing their experiences as the council shines a light on the fostering community as part of Foster Care Fortnight.
Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from Monday 9 May to Sunday 22 May, is a national awareness campaign headed up by The Fostering Network. This year’s theme is #FosteringCommunities and will celebrate the strength, resilience and diversity of fostering communities and all they do to make sure children are cared for and supported to thrive.
Foster care transforms the lives of the young people who are fostered, but it also has the power to change the lives of foster carers and their families through the friendly, supportive and local fostering community.
Southend foster carer, Jo, 41, has been fostering children and young adults for five years. Jo always dreamed of being a foster carer, especially fostering babies, and believes she has found her life’s purpose. Jo was quick to highlight the importance of a strong fostering community.
Jo explained: “I love my fostering community. We have a great group of foster carers that are like a family to me. We share advice, have a moan, give each other a boost and encouragement.
“It’s so important to have people around you that understand the challenges that come with foster care. The community aspect also means that the children get to know other carers, and if you need childcare or respite, they go to people they already know and love. It’s a job like no other!”
Tina, 53, has been fostering children and young adults for nine years and since day one, she has valued the support of her team and the wider fostering community and continues to do so.
Tina said: “When I first started fostering, I received support from my supervising social worker and many of my fostering colleagues. It helps that we are all local too. My supervisor was there to guide me through times of uncertainty and nine years later my supervisor is still here to support me!
“I also discovered other parties that the fostering service provide and have been particularly impressed with the ‘Edge of Care’ service that offers additional support to everyone in the fostering family at times when it is really needed.
“This invaluable support helps all the family – my children, myself and the children I care for. It gives us space and time to settle any issues. We are a family and we function together, so the focus must be on us all thriving and getting along as a loving family.”
Debbie, 51, has been a foster carer for six years working with babies to teenagers and is so grateful for the support she has received from the fostering community.
Debbie said: “When I started my fostering journey, I had a really great supervising social worker who was always available. Other foster carers were also a great support to me.
“The children I care for also benefit from the support groups I attend because they get to know other children and adults and gain a sense of community and wider family. It takes a village to raise a child, I am so grateful for my village of support.”
Recruiting now for foster carers
Over 69,000 children are living with almost 55,000 foster families. The Fostering Network estimates that a further 7,300 foster families are needed in England alone over the next 12 months, in order to ensure all fostered children can live with the right family for them.
Every year thousands of new foster families are needed across the country to meet the demand and in Southend, we welcome carers who can provide a loving home for children and young adults of all ages. We especially need foster carers for older children, sibling groups, disabled children and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
Michael Marks, executive director for children and public health, said: “More children than ever need the love, care and support of a foster carer which means that now is the perfect time to find out more and take those first steps towards becoming a foster carer. If you are interested in learning more please contact the Southend Fostering Team (link below) and start the journey to become a foster carer in Southend.
“We welcome interest and applications from all, there is no upper age limit and foster carers can come from all different walks of life. We pride ourselves on the training and support, both from professionals and peers, given to our foster carers. In addition, they will also have a dedicated social worker and access to senior mental health practitioners who are linked to the service.”