If you care about young lives, be a fosterer

Giving young people a second chance in  life  is what makes fostering such a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Picture: Contributed
Giving young people a second chance in life is what makes fostering such a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Picture: Contributed
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WITH the right support, a spare room and personal commitment, anyone can become a foster parent, writes Sandra Richardson

Action for Children recently launched an appeal for more foster carers after figures showed one in six foster children in Scotland moves home two or more times in a year.

This lack of stability has a huge effect on these children and young people.

Children and young people who regularly move between foster care homes are more likely to have poor social skills, reduced education outcomes and limited future employment prospects – impacting their mental health and worsening any existing behavioural and emotional issues.

For more than two decades, I’m proud to say, I’ve been a foster carer, part of the Action for Children Scotland team since 2003, and consider it one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

Originally I was a foster carer in my local authority but moved to Action for Children Scotland as it was able to offer better support and more breaks than I had been used to. It is that level of support – where someone is available at the end of a phone 24/7 – that has kept me part of the team at Action for Children. The ongoing training has allowed me to achieve a SVQ in childcare.

Fostering can be challenging at times but for me the rewards far outweigh the obstacles.

If I can make even just a small difference to a young person in a period when they need it most – then that’s reward enough for me. Seeing a young person successfully move back to their family or become a settled and independent young adult, who still keeps in touch, makes all the challenges worthwhile.

For any person reading this who would consider fostering, there is no “one size fits all” approach to supporting a foster child. But the key to success is gaining a good understanding of the young person so you can relate to them and offer the best possible support to meet their needs.

Furthermore, children and young people in care often have attachment problems affecting them well into their adult lives. A good relationship with a foster carer can help them form positive relationships in later life.

After all, you have to remember that the young people are in this situation mostly through no fault of their own and need help and support at a crucial time in their life. That is the reward: helping to improve the life of a young person who needs it most.

In fact, fostering has been such an important thing for my family that my son and daughter-in-law have become foster carers. I was thrilled in 2012 when Steven and Emma followed in my footsteps. Growing up, Steven saw first-hand the type of support foster children need. My daughter-in-law, however, had no previous experience of fostering until coming to stay with us but straight away saw the benefits of fostering and the way that they could help young vulnerable people.

The continual support and matching process are some of the many reasons Emma and Steven, like myself, plan to continue fostering with Action for Children. A person or couple’s skills, situation and experience along with the needs of the young person are strongly considered before a match is made. Matching a foster carer’s skills with the specific needs of the young person.

Unfortunately, there’s always going to be a need for foster carers but as long as I have the room and am able, I plan to continue being a fosterer.

If anyone reading this wants to make a difference to a child’s life and can provide a secure and loving home for a child when they need it most, I heartily recommend getting in touch with Action for Children to find out how you can make a difference in a young person’s life.

Action for Children is looking for people across Scotland who want to make a difference to a child’s life and can provide a secure and loving home to children who have experienced trauma and loss. Lots of people can foster; it doesn’t matter if you’re older, single, cohabiting or married, male or female or in a heterosexual or same-sex relationship, but you must have a spare room and the ability to stand alongside children and young people to help them recover.

• Sandra Richardson has fostered with Action for Children Scotland for more than ten years.

• To find out more about being a foster carer visit actionforchildren.org.uk, call 0845 200 5162 or email fostercare.caps@actionforchildren.org.uk

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