Families urged to join the fostering community

woman and child standing by the sea on a shingle beachRESIDENTS across the county are being urged to consider becoming foster carers during Foster Care Fortnight.

With more than 70 children currently waiting for a family, East Sussex County Council is using this year’s national awareness campaign, from May 9 to May 22, to encourage more people to consider joining the fostering community.

Foster carers can transform the lives of children and young people by offering a safe and loving home.

Primary school teacher Catherine decided to foster because “some children haven’t had the best start in life.Fostered children have been part of her extended family for over 10 years and once her own children left home, Catherine felt the time was right to look into fostering for herself.

After completing the necessary training, Catherine was approved in March 2020 to begin fostering for respite care and emergency placements which would fit around her full-time work commitments.

Catherine’s first two respite care placements began in July 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. She was part of the children’s support bubbles, caring for a 5-year-old boy for 24 hours once a fortnight and a 12-year-old girl one weekend a month.

Catherine said: “I loved it. We were busy from the moment they arrived whenever they stayed – parks, beach, train rides, watching films together.

“To foster just seems so natural and respite care allowed me to form relationships with different children so I was getting a lot out of it too.”

In June 2021, Catherine began providing fortnightly weekend respite care for another 5-year-old boy, and the placement was so successful that she was asked to consider caring for him on a full-time basis.

Catherine said: “I wasn’t sure if I could provide the care he needed and work full time, but the support I received from the council made me realise it would be possible.

“It just worked and has done since day one, so with a few alterations he came to us full time as part of our family.

“He’s been with me three months now.  Small steps have rolled into this.  It’s lovely, he’s lovely.”

Cllr Bob Bowdler, the lead member for children and families, said: “Catherine began fostering during the pandemic, in what was an extremely challenging period for everyone. Despite this, our fostering team continued to find new carers and place children, working tirelessly to ensure children were safe and their carers were fully supported during those difficult times.”

Cllr Bowdler continued: “Some people may be discouraged from finding out more about foster care because they wrongly believe their circumstances rule them out.

“I hope Catherine’s story shows that fostering is possible for people from all walks of life who, with the right support, can provide a loving home environment where children can thrive.

“I would encourage any resident who is interested in finding out more to contact our fostering team to discuss their individual circumstances.”

The theme of this year’s Foster Care Fortnight campaign is #FosteringCommunities to celebrate the strength and resilience of fostering communities and all they do to ensure children are cared for and supported to thrive.

Catherine’s #FosteringCommunities includes her family, her colleagues and friends, all the social workers who have supported her and the foster carer who used to look after her foster child and continues to provide Catherine with advice and support.

All carers are fully supported by the Children’s Services team, with dedicated social workers, a 24-hour helpline, extensive local training, educational and therapeutic support for children and a network of support from experienced carers.

Anyone interested in finding out more about offering support to a child or young person by becoming a foster carer or caring for older teenagers as a supported lodgings provider can visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/childrenandfamilies or call 01323 464129 or 01424 726155, respectively.

More information about Foster Care Fortnight can be found at www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/foster-care-fortnight-2022.