F or the launch of LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week (20-26 February 2012), Barnardo’s is asking more people to consider putting themselves forward as potential foster parents – particularly for older children.
More attention needs to be paid to the care of older, vulnerable, children. Nearly twelve thousand (43%) of all the children who entered care in England last year were aged 10 and over – this includes children as old as 16 and 17.The new figures reveal that of those children, a significant number – 80% – entered care for the first time.
While there is considerable focus on placing babies and younger children, the needs of older children are being forgotten. The situation is particularly worrying as there is a general shortage of foster families across the UK, with at least 8,750 new foster families needing to be found within the next 12 months.
A new study shows lesbian and gay people often have the right mix of skills and experience to raise children who have been in care, and give them a great new start in life.
Paul has been with his partner for sixteen years and married for six of those. He and his husband started to think about fostering nine years into their relationship and it was a week after they got married in February 2006 that they were approved as foster carers.
Some of their friends fostered which originally got them thinking about it, and they both come from big families with Paul one of seven and his partner one of six.
Before they fostered they were offered training and support which involved being provided with reading material, meeting a dedicated social worker, and going to away days. The latter offered the opportunity to take part in workshops, meet children who had been in care and couples/individuals who had already fostered.
“We’ve looked after more than 20 children over the past six years – the majority of whom have been over the age of ten. It is without a doubt the best thing we’ve ever done. All the children have been great. Fostering older children has been an incredibly positive experience for us. We’ve been able to build the confidence of a lot of teenagers, and seeing the benefits is so rewarding. All children need caring for, no matter what age they are, they just need it in different ways.
“The children have opened us up to experiences we would never have had. We went on holiday to Barcelona a while ago with a child we were looking after. He was a massive football fan, so I took him on a tour of the football stadium which was great!
“This holiday was particularly special because it was the first time he had been on an aeroplane and the first time he’d been abroad. Knowing we had given him something he was never able to experience before was a real pleasure.
“We love having children around the house and it feels empty when they’ve gone. Just to have someone to care for is nice. You know you can never replace their family, but you can give them a chance to make something out of themselves and that’s good enough for us.
“It’s horrible to hear that there’s a shortage of foster carers, especially for older children. Fostering children over the age of ten is important because it can provide them with more opportunities at an important time in their life. We can help show them that they are have all sorts of positive choices open to them. If they’re placed with a loving family they are likely to flourish; I know that because I’ve seen it happen first hand.
“Just do what we did and pick up the phone and enquire. It was the best thing we ever did and I’m so glad we did it. You’re never tied down during the sign-up process – there’s always a chance to opt out if it’s not for you.”
Barnardo’s is urging more people to consider putting themselves forward as potential foster parents – particularly for older children. If you think you might make a good foster parent and want to find out more contact Barnardo’s on 08000 277 280 or barnardos.org.uk/fosteringandadoption.