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Make a connection to fostering

Published: 04/06/2015

Have you got the skills needed to make a positive change to the lives of children and young people in Flintshire? With record numbers of children coming into care across the UK, and the need to recruit more foster carers in Flintshire, Flintshire County Council’s fostering service is asking local residents to make a connection with fostering, as part of Foster Care Fortnight (1 – 14 June). Jill Jones from the Council’s Fostering Service, said: “This year’s Foster Care Fortnight has a theme of ‘make a connection’, and asks people to talk about what fostering means to them, their family, and their friends. It is also about busting myths about fostering and focusing on the skills and experience needed to become a foster carer and to provide a loving home for vulnerable children.” Helen from Mold has been a foster carer for the last seven years, looking after children from the age of six weeks to 16 years old. She has cared for 27 children. “Each child is an individual; they come from different homes, experiences and have their own set of problems. Many of the children I’ve cared for have issues with food because it gives them comfort and they’ve come from a home where there wasn’t regular meal times and food wasn’t always available. “You need commitment to the child and commitment to attend training, especially in your first year of fostering. Training helps you to understand the children’s behaviours, the different traumas that these children have faced and how to deal with that. It gives you new ideas and strategies.” Helen says that it’s important to prepare yourself beforehand, to be realistic, and to consider the needs of your own family before you commit: “If you are thinking about fostering you need to consider if you can give the commitment and the time that’s needed. You need to discuss long and hard as a family and decide if this is the right time. I wouldn’t start fostering near exam time, it would be better to wait and not have that disruption for your own children. “One myth about fostering is the view that bringing a child into a loving home is going to make everything better. It’s not the same as parenting your own children, because your children have never been through that trauma. Because you’ve parented your children well in one way, that doesn’t mean it will work in fostering. “As a foster carer you need structure and boundaries. We tell the children that there are rules in our house from day one. I never say ‘I know how you feel’ because I don’t. I can’t begin to imagine how they must feel. “ Even after caring for 27 children, Helen says it’s important to know when to ask for help: “Don’t be afraid to pick up to phone to the fostering team or other foster carers. It’s not a sign of failure. It’s better to ask for help before it becomes a crisis. There is always someone at the end of the phone. You need to be able to work with other people and to talk about things. I’ve always had good support from Flintshire Fostering Service whenever I needed it, and that’s why I’m still fostering after seven years.” Councillor Christine Jones, Cabinet Member for Social Services, said “There are local children who need our help. There are many myths about who can become a foster carer, but what really matters is that someone has the commitment, skills and ability to look after children separated from their own families, and to offer them a stable and secure home. It’s not easy, but it is very rewarding to be a foster carer. “There is a particular need for foster carers to look after children over 15 and the under 4’s. Young people over 15 have often lived with a number of foster carers, and they need help to catch up with their peers and prepare them for living on their own. Jill Jones, from the Council’s Fostering Service, added: “Fostering is open to people who are single, married, living together, working, retired, unemployed, gay, straight, old and young, with or without children….but it’s not easy and we are looking for people with bucket-loads of determination, energy, time and availability. Particularly if your own children have now grown up and you have all of that experience to share with another child who has missed out on the childhood they deserve.” Seven years, and 27 children later, Helen loves the rewards that fostering brings. Helen’s own daughter is now away at university and enjoys visiting and seeing the foster children when she comes home: “She likes hearing about the funny things that the children do and say, and there are so many ‘best moments’. From the children who tell you they love you, to the 16 year old lad telling us we were cool! A little girl’s face, every morning when I went to pick her up from her cot – her smile would set me up for the day. The child who followed my husband around, rubbing his hands together, saying ‘A job well done’ - I could go on forever.” Jackie Sanders, Director at The Fostering Network, added: “As each year passes, we see more and more children coming into care. We need people who can open their heart, and their homes, to vulnerable children and young people who need support at a critical point in their young lives. “A good foster carer will believe in the ambition of the children in their care in the same way they’d believe in the ambition of their own family members. A childhood is too short to waste, and foster carers can help those who haven’t had the best start begin to enjoy their life and grow into the adults that they want to be.” To find out more about fostering for Flintshire County Council, contact fostering@flintshire.gov.uk, visit www.flintshirefostering.org.uk or call 01352 702190 Caption: Foster Carer Helen, from Mold:


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