We were fostered - could you foster? It changed our lives.
It is Foster Care Fortnight and two county residents who were or are fostered are sharing their stories in a bid to encourage more people to consider becoming foster parents.
Being fostered changes your life - ask Geoff and Grace. .
They may not want to step directly into the public spotlight, but they do want to share their experiences of what being fostered was like and how with the right placement lives can be transformed. They are also honest about both when things worked out and when they didn't work out.
Geoff and Grace are their pen names not their real names
Geoff, 39 said: "In simple terms, a foster child 99% of the time are in care because they have been let down at some point."
Grace, 18, said: "My emotional journey was a roller coaster. I went from 'Why does my mum not want me?' to 'Do I go back to her or stay with my foster family?' ”
Foster Care Fortnight is two weeks when publicity is stepped up nationally with the aim of encouraging more people to consider becoming foster carers.
In Lancashire the need is ongoing - every week another 11 young people come into care adding to the 2,000 currently in care.
An online information event will be held tonight (May 19) from 6pm - 8pm with staff from the recruitment team and foster carers and there will be an opportunity to ask questions. There will be a fostering surgery tomorrow (May 20) from 10am to 12 noon. For full details or to enquire about fostering call 0300 123 6723 or see www.lancashire.gov.uk/fostering See also @lancashirecc on Twitter,Facebook and Instagram
Two Letters to Lancashire residents
Geoff, 39, reflects on how fostering shaped his future and the need for honesty and trust. Grace, 18, recalls the uncertainty of being fostered at nine and the joy she has found with her second foster family.
"Can I, Should I?
The answer is yes and yes, if you are seriously thinking about fostering children you’ve already answered certain questions. Can you give a child your time and create a safe place for them grow? If so, you can do it.
How do I know? Let me tell you, I’m nearly forty and have been fostered, fostered then adopted and then fostered again. Through these times I have pretty much experienced it all, some bits not very nice but on the whole my experience within the social services was positive and I don’t think I’ve come out the other side too bad.
To be successful in fostering, whether its long or short term, I believe you need trust and honesty. Be it with your family, your social worker or foster child, all parties need to be honest and open. This in turn will bring trust, therefore creating a safe environment for the child
In simple terms, a foster child 99% of the time are in care because they have been let down at some point, they have to trust you from the start, its the only thing we can cling to - this family won’t let me down, they will keep me safe, they will give me a chance, its trust.
Trust is almost instant if you are honest, but people and support networks have to be honest with you. If these foundation blocks are laid early, what follows (which you are probably really worrying about) will take its natural course, like “will they like us?”, “what will my friends think?” My philosophy is don’t worry about things like this because you can’t control the answer, but if things don’t work out - at least you’ve been honest and you can’t have regrets then.
All through my experience with being fostered I have always felt a difference with how I was treated compared to the other kids in the family, majority of my time being fostered there was always a blood sibling in the family. I still ask myself nearly every day if I was being paranoid- I still don’t know the answer. I have two children myself now and each day think to myself that I couldn’t love another child the same or as much as my own, then it dawned on me - you don’t have to. The foster child doesn’t expect this from you, all they ask is for caring, safe environment where someone will devote some time to them to help them grow and find themselves, if you can offer this, then make that call. Good Luck in your journey."
College student Grace, 17, is currently in foster care in the county and has shared her experience of being fostered and the difference it has made to her:
"I’ve been in 2 foster homes since I left my mum’s. My first ever foster home at first was so scary because it was the start of something I had never experienced before. At the start everything was sunshine and roses; they made me feel welcome, loved and like their own. Unfortunately, this placement didn’t work out for me: They weren’t ready for children, like a wrong place, wrong time situation.
My second home though was everything I could have ever hoped for. My foster parents are my best friends. It really is the “perfect” match for me. They let me into their home and treated me like their own. Listening to me, caring for me, loving me. It was a dream come true finally having a family and a place I felt safe and loved.
Imagine one day, you come home from school, noone in sight but police officers telling you to pack essentials and prepare to leave. I didn’t need to imagine; this happened to me at the age of nine. At nine years old I was petrified as I walked into a stranger's home, welcomed as their own.
My emotional journey was a roller coaster. I went from “Why does my mum not want me?” to “Do I go back to her or stay with my foster family?” I felt unloved, scared and alone, even though I had so many people there to support me. I was fed, clothed, loved and cared for. To you, as a reader, this might sound like the bare minimum; to nine year old me this was a blessing and one I am forever grateful for. My foster family are my best friends, my parents and my support. Without them, I don’t know where I would be today.
As my foster family the most important thing they could do for a child is make them me safe, loved and more than anything, normal. I didn’t want to feel like a foster child, I just wanted a place I could call home, where I felt loved and safe. If you think you can give an at risk child the life they deserve, become a foster parent today; you could make someone’s life worth living."
Fostering in Lancashire
Edwina Grant, Lancashire County Council's Executive Director for education and children’s services, said: "Our foster carers here in Lancashire are incredible. They have demonstrated this every day during the pandemic with the vital support that they have been giving to our children and young people.We are committed to supporting our foster carers every step of the way."
That help ranges from:
* A new Foster Care Academy, to support new carers from their initial application through their first year of looking after a child or young person and provide an induction programme
* A mentoring scheme
* Fostering communities are being piloted in five areas of Lancashire in north Lancashire, Chorley and West Lancashire, central Lancashire, Burnley and Pendle and Hyndburn, Rossendale and Ribble Valley , with peer support offered by very experienced foster carers.
* A wellbeing activity programme
The council promises foster carers have access to their own social worker, a dedicated helpline and flexible local training with new foster carers receiving between £250 and £428 per week for each child they care for.
The county council says there is a particular need for foster carers for older children or teenagers, sibling groups, children with complex needs and parent and child families who need a safe and secure home environment through the current pandemic.
To become a foster carer you must be over 21 and have a spare room available by the end of the assessment process.
For more details about fostering events see here .
* The Lancashire Post is more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism. For unlimited access to Lancashire news and information online, you can subscribe here.