Children come in to care for a range of reasons. They come from diverse backgrounds – some with more complex needs than others. Foster carers can make a genuine difference to their lives.
Foster care fortnight starts today (16 May). There is a national shortage of foster carers, and those people who are doing it locally have been explaining why it could be the right thing for you to do, too.
For those children who come into care, Ealing Council has developed a scheme called Fostering Plus, which is specifically for the borough’s most vulnerable children.
Julienne James and Phillip Doyle (pictured) were among the first local foster carers to join the Fostering Plus scheme. Fostering Plus foster carers, like Julienne and Phillip, help children with complex needs stay in their local community, providing them with the extra support they need to give them the best possible start in life.
The couple were approved as Ealing foster carers in mid-2013 and since then have fostered three children with ages ranging from 15 months to six years. Phillip used to be a youth worker and also worked in social services in the past. Their excellent support of children with high needs saw them move under the Fostering Plus scheme.
‘You’re willing to give everything for them’
Phillip said: “Since switching to Fostering Plus we realise how diverse each child’s individual needs are and there are many different professionals involved with the support of the children. It has been challenging at times but your heart goes out to the kids you care for and you’re willing to give everything for them – even, in a way, more than your own children.
“A big responsibility for us as foster carers is being advocates for the children in all areas of their life – we are their eyes and ears. It has been our biggest test. But the training we have received has been excellent and the additional support for foster carers from professionals is invaluable.”
‘The difference you can make is amazing’
Julienne said: “It is a massive responsibility to be a foster carer and not to be done light-heartedly. You need to be patient, have a flexible approach, be playful, engaging and attuned to the behaviours and emotions that each child might present and be prepared to do your best for the child.
“But the benefits counteract this. Benefits such as embracing the great experience of having new children included in your family occasions, seeing them thrive and achieve and being able to share in and enjoy the children’s’ successes and challenges as they grow up in your care.
“The difference you can make to a child’s life as a foster carer is amazing. It is possible to see improvements in the child even within a few weeks.”
Could you be a Fostering Plus carer like Julienne and Phillip? Interested in finding out more about fostering in general? You can call freephone 0800 731 6550, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the fostering page on the council website.