· Three local carers tell their stories of how fostering has changed young lives
· Promotional campaign launched to attract more enquiries
· Children’s Services dispels the 10 most common “myths of fostering”
READING Borough Council is asking for more people “from all walks of life” to explore the possibility of foster caring, so that children in care can enjoy the support, guidance and love of a family life, and continue to live locally.
Councillor Jan Gavin, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said:
“At any one time about 250 local children are being looked after by Reading Borough Council and while we have a fantastic group of carers meeting most of these needs, we still have many children who need a caring, supportive home within the Reading area.
“Every child deserves a decent start in life, and to be given the guidance, confidence and love they need to fulfil their potential. We want all of our children to have that, but to get that locally, in Reading. ”
Cllr Gavin continued:
“We need to recruit many more foster carers from Reading and the surrounding area. As a foster carer, you might care for a child just for a day or two, a few months or a year perhaps, or it could be for much longer. We will work with you to see what type of fostering fits in with your other commitments.”
The Council provides a lot of support and training, and fees can be as much as £425 per week, in addition to a tax-free allowance of between £150 and £260 per week for each child.
A promotional campaign is planned for the week beginning 18th September, with posters and leaflets distributed door to door as well as newspaper advertisements.
Ann Marie Dodds, Director of Children’s Services, said:
“Finding more local foster carers is really important to us and it’s important to our children too.
“If we do not have a carer locally then we may need to place a child outside Reading. That can disrupt their lives by cutting them off from their birth family and lead to them having to change schools or nursery.”
“There are lots of misunderstandings about who can foster. Our foster carers come from all walks of life, and that helps us match the child to the foster carer. Yes, you’ll need to be over 21 and have a spare bedroom, but your marital status and gender are irrelevant. You certainly aren’t required to own your own home and you can carry on working alongside fostering. It’s what you can offer a child that matters.
“Finding out more about fostering couldn’t be easier. Simply call us on 0118 469 3020 or go online at www.reading.gov.uk/fostering or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . We can tell you more, and if you are still interested, we will arrange a visit to see you. At no stage is there an obligation to proceed.
“It might just be one of the best things you ever do… but you’ll never know unless you make that call.”
Local carers share their personal stories
Three Reading foster carers have been telling their personal stories of how fostering has changed their lives.
Says “Marion”, who has been fostering for eight years: “It really has been one of the best things I’ve ever done, and it has been a great experience for my daughters too. It’s given them a sense of achievement… and I know that they are more understanding people as a result.”
“On top of that you know you are making a huge difference to a young child’s life, and helping to equip them for what lies ahead.”
Local Foster carers, empty nesters “Maggie and Mike”, have made a full time role of caring for young children since taking early retirement – and over 50 children have been in their care over the last 14 years. Says Maggie: “My cousin had been fostering for some time and I really liked the idea. As she put it: ‘You can’t change the whole world, but you can change the whole world for one person’.
“Saying goodbye to a child is never easy,” she admits, “but you always know that you’ve been an important stepping stone in that young person’s life.”
“Yes, it can be enormously challenging sometimes…but it is always immensely satisfying.”
“Naomi”, a teacher by profession, was inspired to foster when working in a young offenders institute.
“I was working with children between the ages of 15 and 18, most of whom had been living in care for all or much of their lives. I could see that they were very bright, but unable to break out of the cycle they were in. They were stuck in the system and there was a chance they could stay that way.”
“They just needed help – and I felt that I could provide that. One girl wrote to me after she left and said that I was ‘the best mum she’d ever had’. And that told me I was doing something right.”
10 myths about fostering
A lot of assumptions are made about what sort of people make great foster carers – but not all of them are correct, says Reading Borough Council. Here are just a few:
1. Foster Carers need to have a partner. Fiction
2. Gender and sexual orientation matter. Fiction
3. Foster Carers need to be comfortably off. Fiction
4. You must own your own home. Fiction
5. Foster Carers can’t be disabled. Fiction
6. Foster Carers can’t work as well as foster. Fiction
7. Foster carers need to have had children of their own. Fiction
8. To be a Foster carer for Reading you must live in Reading. Fiction: you can live within 20 miles of the Reading boundary.
9. You can’t have pets if you want to foster. Fiction: having pets can be an asset.
10. There are age barriers to fostering. Fact: you need to be 21+.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Full versions of the three featured case studies are available by contacting David Millward at Reading Borough Council Press Office at email@example.com or by calling (0118) 937 4289.