Every day 15 foster families across East Dunbartonshire are giving 25 fostered children and young people a loving, secure and stable home, and this commitment from foster families is ongoing during the coronavirus outbreak.
East Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) is using this year’s Foster Care Fortnight to raise awareness of the extraordinary dedication and work of foster carers at this time, while calling for more people to come forward to foster.
The campaign to raise the profile of foster carers and the vital role they play in society is organised by the UK’s leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network, and runs from 11-24 May.
Every year 10 more foster carers are needed across East Dunbartonshire to make sure fostered children can live with the right foster carer for them. Despite the coronavirus, this year is no different, so anyone who thinks they might have the skills and experience to become a foster carer is urged to contact their local fostering services.
East Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care partnerships Interim Chief Officer Caroline Sinclair, said, "Foster Care Fortnight is a great way to raise the profile of fostering and also celebrate the great work that is going on in East Dunbartonshire despite such trying circumstances at the moment.
"We already have an amazing network of dedicated foster carers, but we always need more. There are plenty of opportunities to become a foster carer, regardless of marital status, age, sexuality or religion.
"Foster carers accomplish incredible things every day, even in the face of a global crisis that has affected every one of us and impacted all aspects of our society.
"Despite the practical and emotional challenges that the coronavirus is bringing, foster carers continue to provide day-to-day support, love and stability to children and young people who can’t live with their birth families.
"They support children and young people’s education, health, and social wellbeing, and also help to maintain the children’s relationship with the people who are important to them but who they cannot currently see in person."
Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network, added, "Foster care transforms the lives of children and young people as well as those of the foster carers and their families. This has never been more important. Foster carers help children and young people flourish and fulfil their potential, as well as provide a vital service to our society. Because this happens mainly in the privacy of their own homes – especially at the moment – their contributions too often go unnoticed.
"Foster Care Fortnight is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the work of foster carers and their families as well as recognising how transformational foster care can be for the children and young people who need it."
Foster carers provide care in emergencies, for a few weeks or months until children can return to their families, or for longer periods of time, including permanent care.
To be eligible you will need a spare room and be able to commit your time to a child. Carers will receive regular support from a supervising social worker and be involved in training and support groups. Foster carers receive a fee and allowance when caring for children.
If you can help East Dunbartonshire’s children and young people through fostering, please contact us on 07880 174246 or search ‘fostering’ at www.eastdunbarton.gov.uk
Pauline, 51, has been fostering for 14 years. Having worked hard in her chosen career, she was in her late 30s when she took a career break to become a foster carer.
She has looked after a newborn for a couple of weeks and two infants who stayed with her for a year or so before moving to live with their adopted families. Two girls who came to her as very young children are now, a decade later, with her on a more permanent basis. She has also provided respite care for two older teenagers over the years.
This is her story:
“I came to fostering because I couldn’t have children of my own. I had been through fertility treatment without success and then my relationship sadly broke up. I couldn’t see my life without kids.
“Fostering seemed the obvious path for me but I knew that I would be coming to it as a single parent. I choose fostering instead of adoption because I was worried I might not be any good. Fostering, for me, was a way to have experience of looking after children. I felt I had the skills and the love to give, but I still worried about if I was able to do it. I put a lot of thought into it.
“Applying to become a foster carer was a long, in-depth process. A lot of time is spent making sure that you have the skills and commitment.
“Within two weeks of being approved a newborn baby arrived from hospital. It was daunting, exciting, overwhelming and wonderful at the same time. I felt privileged to be part of this little boy’s life at such an important stage. Everything you have been taught suddenly comes into play. I always knew he was going onto another family after a couple of weeks, but I still cried my eyes out.”
Pauline had another two other infants who stayed with her for a year or so. In both cases she has maintained a relationship with the child and the adoptive family.
“When they leave, you can feel devastated as you have formed such a bond, but I am very fortunate to have good relationships with both sets of adoptive parents. I am kept up to date on how they are doing and that has made it so much easier. The joy that you can give to those parents, the information you can pass on because you know the child so well, it’s just a lovely thing to be a part of.”
Two years into her fostering journey, two little girls came to live with her. More than a decade later, they stay with her on permanent basis but Pauline still benefits from social work support.
“Being a foster carer has been hugely satisfying for me. It has allowed me to develop skills I didn’t know I had. It has increased my empathy and my understanding of how people react. My skills have been tested with kids who potentially have had trauma in their early life.
“I feel so blessed to have my two amazing girls in my life. We are a family. One of my girls has a learning disability and she is so inspiring. She is fabulous and she taught me a lot. I’ve had to think outside the box, listen and understand. I never would have thought I could have cared for a child with additional needs, but fostering brings out skills you never knew you had. In other jobs, you always have the choice to walk away. Being a foster carer, you have to find a solution and that is one of the real skills you develop. You become a great problem solver.
“It is immensely rewarding and also challenging. I wouldn’t want my life to be any different. I love my life and my kids.
“The feedback I get from the professionals is that they can see a huge difference in their resilience and self-esteem. My kids’ start in life was not good and there were certain behaviours that came out of that, but we have worked hard to manage that. They are now secure, confident, independent and value themselves. I hope that some of that has been down to me.”