They are having afternoon tea at Stanley Park. For two. But there’s a third, unseen presence there – a child in need of fostering or adoption.
It seems a splendid affair, relaxed and leisurely, the fine bone china cups are out, dainty sandwiches, scones, cakes – and tea, of course.
Everyone knows everything stops for tea. But there’s little of the light chit chat that usually accompanies such ceremonials.
It’s like speed dating for prospective foster or adoptive parents – call in , check out the corner display, pick up a few leaflets, sit down and chat to a social worker.
The event has been organised by Blackpool’s fostering and adoption service – the afternoon tea provided by the Art Deco Cafe’s team.
It helps that the chap who now runs the cafe Sean Gallagher, used to be a social worker himself. “All kids need a good home,” he says.
The event, a sort of drop in, have a cuppa in style, is all about fostering closer ties with the community – by taking the service out to where the rest of us meet, greet and congregate.
It goes much deeper than tea and sympathy. Organisers are providing information for prospective foster parents and those interested in adoption.
The fortunes of 110 children hang in the balance at this and other events.
Blackpool needs to find adopters for 40 children this year – and 70 children need fostering by Blackpool carers.
Blackpool Council already offers personalised support packages from a team that really gets to know what families need to make it work for the children in their care.
Foster carers, and in some instances adopters, also get a comprehensive financial package. The aim of such events – and there will be more – is for couples and families to learn more about the processes involved in adoption and fostering in a more relaxed environment.
Coun Sarah Riding, Blackpool Council cabinet member for children and schools, says: “There are many people from Blackpool and further afield who have an interest in adoption and fostering.
“We appreciate that, often, couples or families may be concerned about the process they have to go through, the length of time it takes and other unknowns.
“These types of events can answer those types of questions and show people just how rewarding fostering and adoption can be.”
And by hosting events in the heart of the community they can reach to others who may not otherwise have considered fostering or adoption. “We’re looking for real people,” fostering support officer Kirsty Fisher admits.
“And real people don’t always realise fostering may be for them. Or they may have thought about it and dropped it simply because they think they may not be considered.”
In fact policies for prospective fosterers or adopters are more open, accessible and inclusive than ever before – which is why an event to reach members of the LGTB (lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual) community was held recently at Progress House.
Kirsty added: “Others think they wouldn’t be considered because of their age, perhaps, or the fact they live alone but if they are interested we would love to hear from them and see if it can be taken further. Society is nowhere near as stereotypical as it once was.”
All the specialist workers involved – Kirsty, fellow foster support officer Jo Walch, and adoption specialist social workers Ann Hearne and Gareth Twose – want to make a difference to the lives of the youngsters who, for all sorts of reasons, require the care of others.
Some, such as Robert, eight, pass into foster care as a result of significant long term neglect. He’s experienced trauma in his early life and needs nurturing. He’s already making good progress with short term carers but would flourish and thrive with the stability of a longer placement.
Then there’s Jake, seven, who came into foster care because of concerns around neglect, parental alcohol misuse and domestic abuse. He would love to be placed in a family with other children. He’s even become enthusiastic about school.
There are 68 other children, of all ages, in similar situations. Then there are the 40 youngsters who need to be adopted. Again, families may have broken down due to neglect, different types of abuse, illness, financial strain and other issues.
As Gareth points out: “The decision is never taken lightly.” Many are cared for by foster families prior to adoption so an adoptive family can be the third family the child will have lived in – with all the upheaval and uncertainty that goes with it. “It’s important to get it right,” stresses Ann.
Is it for you? You’ll never know until you ask but as one foster mum Liz explains: “It’s the best decision I ever made. Not just for me but my family. I have never done anything as rewarding as this before. I can’t recommend it enough.”
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