Foster carers in Southend-on-Sea have been sharing their inspirational fostering experiences as the council shines a light on the fostering community as part of Foster Care Fortnight (9-22 May).
Southend foster carers are also appealing to anyone who has ever considered fostering and lives in and around Southend to join the friendly and supportive fostering community to help keep vulnerable children and young people close to familiar surroundings.
Foster care can transform the lives of young people and also has the power to change the lives of foster carers and their families through the friendly, supportive and local fostering community.
For many, becoming a foster carer is seen as a life calling and can be literally life changing as was the case for Jo, 41, who has been a short-term carer for five years.
Jo said: “I’d always dreamed of being a foster carer and I feel I have found my life’s purpose. It has made me whole. I care because each child deserves to feel safe and loved. So many people say: ‘oh I couldn’t do what you do – it would break my heart to let them go’. This makes it sound like it doesn’t break my heart but, I can assure you, it does! But I would choose to have my heart broken a thousand times over rather than a baby or child not to have the opportunity to feel safe and loved.”
Jo was also quick to highlight the importance of a strong fostering community which is the theme of this year’s Foster Care Fortnight campaign.
Jo explained: “I love my fostering community. We have an amazing group of foster carers in Southend that are like an extended family to me. We spend time together, share advice, have a moan, give each other a boost and encouragement.
“The children in my care thrive within their fostering community because they spend time together, getting to know other children and adults in a safe environment. They are accepted and loved exactly as they are, and they can begin to heal from past trauma. This enables them to grow into the young people they were born to be. It’s a job like no other!”
Debbie, 51, has been fostering for six years as a single carer and has helped care for children aged from two to teens as well as providing respite care for babies. Initially Debbie didn’t realise she could foster as a single carer, but when she discovered this was possible, she wasted no time in getting in touch with Southend Council’s Fostering Service.
Debbie said: “My experience of working with the Council’s Fostering Service has been one of close community support from other foster carers and the social workers.
“When I started my fostering journey, I was given a really great supervising social worker who was always available. Other foster carers are also a great support and we have become friends and they continue to play a major part in my life.
“Fostering helps children feel safe which helps them to learn, have fun and grow into functioning independent adults. Fostering helps give children the childhood they deserve.
“I care because these children need you to be their safe base, their hope and their steppingstone to a bright future. And I get to do all the fun things again, like watch school plays, read stories, take swimming, be silly and dance and play. Fostering keeps me young and it’s an honour to be part of a child’s life.”
Recruiting now for foster carers
Over 69,000 children are living with almost 55,000 foster families. The Fostering Network estimates that a further 7,300 foster families are needed in England alone over the next 12 months, to make sure all fostered children can live with the right family for them.
In Southend, we urgently need new foster carers to help change the lives of children and young adults and keep them close to familiar surroundings.
If you can provide a stable and loving home, we want to hear from you. If you need more information, then please get in touch with our friendly and supportive Southend Fostering Service.