Can you make a real difference to a child? An appeal has been launched for foster carers in Leeds as part of Foster Carers Fortnight. EMMA SIMMONDS speaks to Andy, from West Leeds, about how he provides long-term foster care to children and young people.
Shortage of foster carers
Exceptional people are being sought by Leeds City Council to help change a child’s life forever, by becoming a foster carer and part of one of the UK’s largest fostering teams.
Across the UK there is a shortage of foster carers and Leeds is no different. Foster carers are urgently needed for children and young people across the city.
By fostering for Leeds City Council, new carers would join one of the country’s largest and most well-established fostering networks with direct support from social workers and specialist staff.
Over the past three years Leeds has worked hard to recruit some fantastic carers, and now has 711 foster families as part of the Leeds foster care ‘team’.
In 2011 Leeds redesigned its fostering recruitment service and since then has seen an increase in foster carers of 19%. As a result the council is able to provide an increasing number of fostering placements within the city resulting in children and young people being placed nearer their schools and their personal support networks.
However the council is still very keen to hear from people who could foster children over the age of 11 years old, sibling groups and those with additional needs. The council has a high demand for families who can offer homes to these children and young people and would welcome further applications.
Leeds needs foster carers from all walks of life, people who are single, married, divorced, employed, unemployed, with or without children of their own. People from diverse backgrounds and all ethnic origins are needed to help children benefit from living with families who share their own culture, language and religion.
People are needed to provide a wide range of fostering types, including short term support for young children and longer, planned permanent support, as well as respite foster care, and specialist care for disabled children. Leeds City Council provides locally based offices, support groups, training and regular foster friendly events.
“Don’t be afraid. Give them a chance…”
Andy lives in West Leeds. At the moment he is providing long-term foster care to a young person aged 17.
“We were afraid at first. Don’t be afraid. Give them a chance. They’ve come from backgrounds where there has been a lot of neglect and they just don’t trust anybody” says Andy.
“My personality is I won’t give in on anything. To me I see it as a challenge – small victories all the way. The reward is what you see now.”
Andy knew he had the patience, commitment, a non-judgemental approach and support to care for children and families who needed it at times of trouble and difficulty. He added:
“There’s this stigma with teenagers that people don’t want to take teenagers because they are all trouble. They are NOT all trouble. You need to get to know the personalities. You need to give them a chance.
“You need to have a lot of resilience, a lot of patience, give them the time they need and eventually you will build that relationship up.”
Andy found that using foster carer support groups proved a valuable resource and good networking tool.
He attends monthly support groups for foster carers, an all schemes support group aimed at all types of carers, training and development courses when places are available. He also has regular contact with their Fostering Support Worker and Therapeutic Support Team.
Those interested in finding out more about fostering can register their interest online by visiting www.foster4leeds.com or by contacting 0113 378 3538 for advice and an information pack.