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Foster Carer of the Year 2002 - Amina

Fostering: ‘You have to have a kind heart’

“It feels like it is like my purpose to look after the children,” said Amina Berhe, winner of the council’s Foster Carer of the Year 2022.

You get the feeling when talking to Amina that, when it comes to fostering, she is a complete natural. The three children in her care are clearly just as much a part of the family as her own son.

“I am always open and honest with them,” said Amina, who lives in Northolt. “I make myself go further to form a connection with them, because building a relationship is crucial. In this house, I encourage the children in my care to think of each other as brother and sister, and to look out for each other.”

Looking after a one-day-old child

Since 2008, Amina has looked after 10 children, whether for long or short periods. The first was 3-and-a-half years old when he first came to stay and he returned at the age of five. She also cared for a one-day-old child for a short period: “She was so small that I had to wrap her in so many towels.”

Amina believes it is important for all the children to feel involved and to participate in the ongoing activities of the house. She said: “If you are planning to be a foster carer you have to understand why these children are coming to us. Other than that, it is communication, I live equally in this house, we do shopping together, we clean together, I have to teach them some skills to make them feel involved, feel they belong here.”

Building trust is essential

Building trust is one of the most essential parts of fostering, said Amina.

“I am always consistent,” she said. “I try to do what I have said, whatever I have promised, no matter what. If I’m not kind or honest with them, that’s not fair.

“I want to protect them. It doesn’t matter how long they stay with me, this is their home. I advocate on their behalf and make sure they receive the support they need. Every child is an individual and they need understanding and empathy.”

‘The best advice I get is from other foster carers’

To start work in foster care, the process usually takes around six months. Since becoming approved, Amina has built up a good friendship network of foster carers.

She said: “We get very honest with each other. It is very important to understand yourself and know what you are talking about. We have very nice foster carers in Ealing and the support and training I receive from Ealing Council is also excellent.

“You have to have a kind heart and be fair.

“It feels like it is like my purpose to be their carer. I am very involved in their day-to-day lives and am a very hands-on carer.

“It is so nice seeing them grow up. And we talk about the future. I am always going to help them if I can, if they ever need my help.”

More carers needed

Councillor Kamaljit Nagpal, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for a fairer start, said: “Amina was a very deserving winner of our annual award as Foster Carer of the Year and the way she looks after children is an inspiration.

“It is a consistent message from our carers that they find it deeply rewarding and I’d urge anyone who thinks fostering might be for them to have a chat to our team to find out more.

“Currently, our borough has approximately 100 fostering households but, with around 300 looked after children, more carers from all backgrounds, ethnicity and ages are needed.

“Carers receive an allowance, ongoing training, and support.”

Find out more

Foster Care Fortnight takes place in May, but you can find out more about fostering any time. Information sessions are held every month, and you can call the fostering team on freephone 0800 731 6550, email them at fosteradopt@ealing.gov.uk or you can visit the website.

During Foster Care Fortnight events are taking place at Ealing Town Hall, Friday, 19 May and Southall Town Hall, Wednesday, 24 May, both at 11am until 2pm, and there’s a virtual evening event on 6 June, which starts at 6.30pm. Check out full details on the Ealing Fostering Connections website.

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