HUNDREDS of foster carers across East Sussex are transforming the lives of children by offering them a safe and loving home.
But with 50 more children waiting for a placement at any one time, East Sussex County Council is using Foster Care Fortnight to encourage more people to consider becoming foster carers.
To the army of foster carers currently registered with the local authority, fostering is not a job but the opportunity to make a difference to the life of a child who has not had a good start.
“Even if you can only do a little for these children, it can make a big difference,” said Sarah, whose family became foster carers six years ago. “You can be in these children’s lives for such a short period of time, but anything positive is good.”
Sarah grew up around foster children, with both her nan and mum fostering, so when her own children grew up and left home, offering a loving home to children in need was a natural move.
“There are so few reasons why you can’t foster,” she added. “You can be single, a same sex couple, young or older, you can have your own children or have none.
“You don’t have to be the ‘perfect’ person with a ‘perfect’ life because, a lot of the time, the experience you’ve had is what will help.”
Helping the children settle into her Eastbourne home is one of the biggest challenges Sarah faces, but her dog – a Japanese Akita called Boo – helps breaks the ice.
“You need to be patient and have a good sense of humour – that’s really important. Many of these children have had really difficult upbringings and you need to be caring and supportive. You also need to be realistic and use the support available.
She added: “The support from East Sussex County Council has been excellent. We have been supported all the way through. The number one thing for us would be the training – the training is just second to none.”
And while she has faced her fair share of challenges, Sarah believes the rewards of helping children be part of society make it all worthwhile.
“The best bits are the markings on the door frame where the children are growing up from when you first have them – I can’t paint over that, there is just something about it, the little pictures they draw you with love hearts and kisses and all the little things.
Joe and Jo share their home in Eastbourne with their two teenage daughters and the children they foster.
“It takes up a lot of time, but looking at their faces afterwards, it’s worth it,” said Joe. “Some of these kids come from such a terrible place and just giving them a couple of years of or a year of calmness, love, affection – it means a lot to me.”
The couple’s two children play a huge role in helping young foster children settle into their home.
Jo said: “It’s given them a lot of confidence. They play nicely with the children and they read with them.
“Fostering could be completely right for you or it could be completely wrong for you, but until you go along you are not going to find out.”
There are many different types of foster care that families can offer and anyone interested in fostering can find out more at www.eastsussex.gov.uk/fostering
Information evenings are held on the first Thursday of each month, except January, and give potential carers the chance to find out more and speak to current foster carers about the challenges and positives of fostering. The events run from 5pm until 8pm and are held at St Mary’s House in Eastbourne.
Alternatively, contact the fostering team on 01323 464129 or text FOSTER to 80806.
Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from Monday, May 14 to Sunday, May 27 is The Fostering Network’s annual campaign to raise the profile of fostering and to show how foster care transforms lives.