Foster Wales has spoken to local care experienced people who shared their stories to support Foster Care Fortnight. The campaign is aimed at encouraging more people to consider fostering for their local authority, which is not for profit, as opposed to commercial fostering agencies, which will have a substantial impact on the futures of children and young people who are fostered in the Gwent region. This encompasses Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen.
Throughout Gwent every child in need of a foster carer is the responsibility of their Local Authority. Increasing the number of foster carers within Gwent will help keep children local wherever possible, which can mean the world to a child or a young person.
By helping children to stay within their local community wherever possible, we can keep them connected with their friends and family, their school, and their sense of identity, which not only builds confidence but also reduces stress. Local authority fostering services are here to stay which provides stability for both foster carers and children in care. This is not always the case with commercial fostering agencies, which like every business, can come and go or merge and transform, leaving a great amount of uncertainty. Foster Wales is also not for profit, we’re here for children and we place children, not money at the core of every decision.
With the Foster Care Fortnight 2023 theme being ‘fostering communities’, Foster Wales wants to explore how the community and being fostered locally can affect children’s lives.
Darryl, a care experienced young person from Blaenau Gwent, has shared his journey, as he hopes to inspire people to support others like him and foster for their local authority.
Darryl said “I’m 22, I moved into my foster carers’ home in 2008, and it’s been great ever since. Fostering has made a massive difference in my life. I wouldn’t be the way I am now, I’d be in a really bad place. Thanks to my foster carers for making me the man I am today, really. I had such a traumatic time when I was a kid. Moving to here was such a big change.“
When asked why Darryl was helping us with the campaign he replied “Because I was fostered by the local authority, what that meant was I could remain where I lived, not moving out of county where I have to start again. Also, they’re not here to make money, they are here to help children in need.”
There is still a need to recruit an estimated 550 new foster carers and families across Wales every year. This is to keep up with the numbers of children who need care and support, whilst replacing carers who retire or provide a permanent home to children.
Vicky from Torfaen, who also agreed to speak to us about her experience, said “I was in foster care for approximately seven years, covering my teenage years. Being fostered has made a massive difference in my life. They made me feel welcome, birthdays, Christmases, days out, holidays. “
When asked how fostering benefited her, she added “It was just nice to have that stable home, with that stable environment to flourish and realise my true potential in life, really. I’ve been able to hold down a full-time job, I’ve raised two lovely children. Without that foster placement, I don’t know where I’d be today.”
Fostering with local authority has many faces. There are challenges, but also a great amount of joy and satisfaction. You get fantastic support from your social worker, fostering team and fostering community, so you’re never on your own.
Fostering with Local authority is flexible; you can start gradually and build up your confidence by fostering on weekends or short term. You can work and foster or foster full-time. You can also help young people by providing temporary support like a foster carer who supported Mesi from Afghanistan.
Mesi said “I’ve been in the UK for five years, and when I came here, I went to a foster family first. I lived with her for more than two years. When I came to the UK, I couldn’t speak any English. I’d just say “Hello”, that’s it. She did support me a lot and I still have contact with her; she called me last week and said to me “How is everything? How’s your family? She has changed my life.”
While no two children or young people are the same, neither is the foster care they need. There is no ‘typical’ foster family. Whether you own your own home or rent, whether you’re married or single, whatever your gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or faith, there are young people in your local community who need someone on their side.
Foster Wales will be sharing content across the Gwent region on their Local Authority social media channels throughout May and be out and about in your local community to help more people understand and value fostering and the positive difference it can make to young peoples’ lives.
If you think you could make a difference by becoming a foster carer visit fosterwales.gov.wales