You can make a difference to children's lives - South Hampshire
Friday, 25 May 2012
"Being listened to, having boundaries set for you, knowing people care about you - all that makes you feel safe, secure and loved. That's what a good foster placement is all about."
Those are the words of a teenager who spent several years living with a Hampshire County Council foster family. Hampshire has around 500 carers providing that essential secure and safe care which the young person speaks so movingly about but the authority still needs more.
Hampshire carers are helping the County Council promote fostering which really does make a difference to children's lives and helps families at a time of crisis.
Councillor Roy Perry, Hampshire County Council's Executive Lead Member for Children's Services said:
"Foster carers are vital to us - without them our job of ensuring good outcomes for vulnerable children would be much harder. It can be challenging at times as all parenting can be, but carers tell us it is a very rewarding role and a chance to make a real difference to children-s lives."
The County Council is especially keen to hear from people who can offer a stable and caring home environment to a teenager, sibling groups, or children with complex needs. Opportunities exist which range from long-term caring roles to respite and short break care. Carers are also needed to support parents and babies.
Two carers who foster teenagers with Hampshire are Kate New from Waterlooville and Claire Pattinson from Fareham. Both prefer to care for teenagers - so much so they don't just have one teenager placed with them but several!
Kate is 52 and a single parent with grown up children and one teenage daughter still living at home. She's currently fostering and providing a welcoming home for three teenagers. Claire, 51 and also a single carer is providing a foster home to four teenage boys while also caring for her 17-year-old niece.
Both agree that while it may sound daunting and is often challenging, providing a stable home for troubled teenagers also brings its rewards.
Kate said: "Of course there are ups and downs but teenagers are just like any other child. They want someone to care, they want someone to take time to listen to them and they want to feel safe and secure.
"Good communication is the key. Listen and advise rather than dictate and lecture and they will respond. I have found they can bring a lot of fun, they are good company and I enjoy it tremendously. You can always find something good in all young people. It's about building on that. They all have a lot to give and it's about you giving them time. Many of them haven't had a stable family background or any time spent on them as individuals. It's my job to do that for them."
Claire agrees: "People say teenagers are a nightmare. I remember people saying that about me when I was one but if you set clear boundaries, sit down with them and explain why you have put certain boundaries down it seems to work. They know I'm here for them. I'm not their mum but I can provide stability and continuity for them and a safe and caring home. I try to give them what they need at that particular moment in their lives and if I can make a tiny bit of difference that's rewarding for me."
To help foster carers Hampshire County Council has a range of training courses and comprehensive support. Claire has undertaken many of these and has found them invaluable.
"Hampshire's excellent training is second to none. I have learned so much and it works to help you support the youngsters in your care."
Hampshire County Council's high quality support and package of training available to foster carers was recently recognised by Ofsted who judged the Fostering Service to be good with outstanding features. The Council also offers a competitive package of fees and allowances according to skills and experience.
Anyone can be a foster carer as long as they have what it takes to care for children, many of whom are very vulnerable, and who are separated from their families for a variety of reasons. If you feel you can't commit to a full-time caring role there are also opportunities to foster children for short-term breaks which can be as little as one weekend a month - it may be a short break but it makes a big difference to a child and their family.
To find out more about how you can make a difference call the Foster Care team on 0845 6011 895 or log on to the website.