Independent fostering agency Fostering Solutions is highlighting that one child is taken into care every 15 minutes in England with the launch of new campaign Foster15.
Foster15 is appealing for more foster carers to come forward after new statistics showed 30,430 children in England started to be looked after in 2014 – an average of one child being taken into care every 15 minutes, and a figure which is set to rise.
Gareth Walton, operations director for Fostering Solutions, said: “There is a shortfall in foster carers which is only set to increase, with recent reports showing that number of total looked after children has risen to 68,840, an increase of 7 per cent on 2010. 75 per cent (51,340) of looked after children are cared for in foster placements, an increase of 9 per cent since 2010.
There are a lot of children and young people out there who desperately need a safe, nurturing and stable home.
Mary Pitman, 66, is from Waterlooville near Portsmouth. She and husband Les, 64, (pictured above) have been foster carers for 13 years.
Mary said: “Years ago, when we had our first two children, we had thought about adoption. But then we had a third child and decided to foster later on after we’d brought our own children up. A friend started to foster and that spurred me on even more.
“Once my children – who are now all aged between 40 and 45 – had left home, we had the time to give to fostering. Les and I have looked after approx. 18 children and young people over the years, maybe more. My background is as a nurse in a special care baby unit, so being a parent and child foster carer came naturally to us.
“I was used to working with mums who weren’t coping too well and realised there were a lot of girls who were just children themselves in this situation – so I wanted to help make a difference to them.
“We have had parents as young as 14 with us and one as old as 42 who was disabled with a baby. We managed to help several keep their babies with them by guiding them to become better parents. It can be hard to manage any baby, especially when they have special needs.
“We’ve cared for mothers and their babies, a sibling group for three or four year and we have two children now in the long term. One of our toddlers who was adopted we still keep in touch with which is lovely.
“Being a foster carer can be a challenge as children are very active and needy. You want to supply that need, but can’t get too close because you know these children will likely move on. There has to be a happy balance where you support foster children, give them the attention they need, but you don’t take over to the point where they can’t be without you. Getting the balance right is a challenge.
“The huge reward is seeing them comfortable and happy. Sometimes emotionally you can’t believe it’s the same child. The difference you can make is phenomenal and you can see the change. You’ve done some good in a child’s life, however short term it may be – and you’ve managed to give them something that they wouldn’t have had, simply by caring for them and helping them get by.
“My advice would be to think about being a foster carer in 2015. What can you offer a child? People often start with the best intentions, but don’t fully realise how challenging children can be – but you can make a difference and it matters. The support from Fostering Solutions has been great – there is lots of training and lots of chances to ask questions. You also get a social worker there for you all the time if you need it.
“Being a foster carer needs to be unconditional and reliable – some placements aren’t forever and it is a matter of supporting the child, meeting the challenge and making a difference in the time available. The difference you do make will stay with the child forever and where else can you say that you’ve achieved a long lasting effect on someone’s life? Please consider being a foster carer – it’s well worth making the effort.”
Gareth continued: “We need more foster carers to come forward. Becoming a foster carer is one of the most rewarding steps you can take – these children are likely to have had a challenging start to their lives and you can be the person who makes the priceless difference to their life by offering them a home and care.
“January is a great time to consider a change and we want Foster15 to raise awareness of this need and urge more people to come forward to find out more about fostering.”
If you would like to find out more about being a foster carer with Fostering Solutions, visit www.fosteringsolutions.com, phone 0800 160 1607
You can also find Fostering Solutions on Facebook and Twitter @FosteringSols