Foster Focus Week throws the spotlight on fostering through different perspectives – with carers, siblings and looked-after children all using their own experiences to raise awareness of fostering in the county.
Councillor Patricia Stallard, Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services and Young People, said: “There are few things in life more fulfilling than providing a stable and loving home to a child or young person, and our foster carers describe their experiences as life-changing, overwhelmingly positive and happy.
“For a child, growing up with the constancy of a caring home where they feel safe and supported is the most important gift they can have, and we need more people to join our foster caring community to ensure we are always able to support our most vulnerable young people.”
Foster carers such as Simon who, with his wife Lynda, is a full-time foster carer, want to encourage others to join them. He said: “Fostering has changed our lives together. Before we were just paying the bills, working, cleaning the house - now it’s paying the bills and having fun. It’s a pleasure to do it all - fostering has been a real benefit.”
The couple have been caring for Joe for the past four years, and Lynda explained the joy of seeing him blossom under their care. She said:
“Joe’s confidence has grown so much. He applied for head boy at school and he did an excellent job - to see him flourish is lovely. At first, he was skinny, stressed and quiet, so to see him make his head boy speech on stage, talking to everyone at the school, was brilliant.”
Children in foster care have also joined the campaign by sharing their stories anonymously. One 16 year old said: “When I first came into care, I was glad because I had my own TV and I wasn’t in hospital. My foster carers made sure I had food, support, security, a bed and they listened. Things that are positive about my experience of foster care are that I get a decent amount of food, relaxation and I have someone to stick up for me. If I could give a message to new foster carers, I would tell them to give children comfort, be there to listen to them and provide for them as best as possible.”
Being fostered can have lifelong benefits for the children involved. Michael, now an adult who was looked after from the age of three, described his foster parents as the ‘crème de la crème’. He said: “I want to be a role model. My parents have made me the man I am today and although I’m not perfect, I feel as though I have come far.
“I have no hatred towards my biological parents. Now I’ve gone through what I’ve gone through, I understand. I count my blessings though, because I've had the crème de la crème of foster parents. I’m very lucky. There are lots of foster parents like them who do amazing jobs, you just don’t always hear about them.”
Throughout Foster Focus Week, Fostering Hampshire Children will be sharing these and other stories online and holding special events. Anyone who is interested in fostering a Hampshire child is encouraged to go along to one of the following Foster Focus Week’s drop-in events:
• Milestones Museum: Tuesday 29 October, 10am – 12pm, Leisure Park, Basingstoke, RG22 6PG;
• ASDA Andover: Thursday 31 October, 9am – 11am, Anton Mill Road, SP10 2RW
• Glen Lodge: Thursday 31 October, 4pm – 7pm, Glen Road, Swanwick, SO31 7HD
• Glen Lodge: Friday 1 November, 11:30am – 2:30pm, Glen Road, Swanwick, SO31 7HD.
For more information about fostering and other information events, visit Finding Homes for Hampshire Children online or call 0300 555 1384.