FOSTER carers in Leicester are sharing their experiences and talking about their work as they take part in Foster Care Fortnight (10-23 May).
The annual national campaign, run by The Fostering Network, aims to raise awareness of the transformational power of fostering and celebrate the fostering community.
This year’s campaign takes the theme #WhyWeCare. The theme was decided on in consultation with foster carers, children and young people from all parts of the UK.
Deputy city mayor Cllr Sarah Russell, who leads on social care, said: “Over the past year, many foster carers have had to adapt to new ways of working and supporting their young people through the pandemic.
“We have over 150 foster carers in Leicester who do amazing work every day to support our children in care. There has been an increase in demand for foster carers due to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on our most vulnerable families.
“Throughout Foster Care Fortnight, we will aim to encourage everyone to understand and value fostering and the positive difference it can make to young people’s lives. We hope this increased awareness will build support for fostering, challenge stigma surrounding children in foster care and encourage more people to come forward to foster.”
Local foster carers Sam and Steve have been sharing why they care. “Once you see the huge difference you have made to a child’s life and have been privileged enough to be part of their story, you can then see why foster carers care so much about fostering and the opportunities it gives to do something amazing,” says Sam.
Foster carer Nik added: “I started my fostering journey nine years ago after wanting to foster for many years. One day I decided to take that leap and it’s the best decision I ever made. My husband and I have never looked back and my only regret is not making that phone call sooner!
“Changing a child’s life is the most incredible feeling and I feel very lucky to have that opportunity. I see them develop into wonderful, loving and caring kids. Of course my house is very busy but we wouldn’t change a thing!
“This is not just a job, it’s a passion and I would recommend it to anyone considering embarking on this rewarding journey.”
Sarah (pictured) had wanted to be a foster carer for many years, but felt too nervous to make the first call. Encouraged by her daughter, she called Leicester City Council’s fostering enquiry line.
“I thought they wouldn’t want me, but they were really encouraging and made me feel relaxed,” says Sarah. “I realised there’s no such thing as a typical foster carer”.
Sarah was approved as a new foster carer just prior to the first lockdown in 2020, and her first placement took place during lockdown.
“I did doubt myself, but I got so much support I quickly realised I could do it,” she says. Her first placement was a baby boy, which she took home from hospital after spending time on the neonatal unit getting to know him and learning about his care needs.
Sarah was paid ‘start up’ costs to buy furniture and equipment following approval, and she was supported financially to get clothes and toys.
Sarah is now enjoying her second placement, a new-born baby, and says she feels reassured that a social worker is always on the end of the phone if she needs any advice.
“To anyone thinking about fostering, I would say just do it, it is an amazing role and so important,” she says. “I doubted myself but now, with the council’s support, I feel confident and proud of myself.”
Leicester City Council offers a wide range of training and support for foster carers, plus a fostering allowance and financial support to buy equipment and clothing.
If you are considering becoming a foster carer, find out more by calling 0116 454 4500 or visit www.leicester.gov.uk/fostering