Essex County Council has officially launched its drive to find 100 more foster carers with the start of Foster Care Fortnight this week.
The launch was staged at the council’s Chelmsford headquarters on Monday, 13 May, supported by dedicated foster carers, like Halstead couple Kaylie and Simon Barber, who shared their experiences with potential new foster parents.
This week, the council is urging younger parents with their own children at home to see if they have room in their lives for more. Kaylie and Simon have first-hand experience helping to transform the lives of children and are supporting Essex County Council’s drive to find 100 new foster carers.
Foster Care Fortnight is the annual awareness campaign run by UK charity the Fostering Network and throughout the campaign, from 13-26 May, Essex County Council is staging a number of information events where foster carers will be present to speak to anyone who is interested in finding out more information.
During Foster Care Fortnight the Council is especially calling out to younger parents who love family life and who could make a difference to another child; and to people whose children have grown up and left home and who want to give back.
Kaylie, 30 and Simon, 32, have three children of their own aged from four to 12 and have been fostering since their youngest was a year old. “I love it!” states Kaylie, who grew up in close proximity with an aunt who fostered.
The couple specialise is looking after children up to the age of two: “Our first placement was two days old when he arrived and 15 months old when he left,” she said.
“It was awful when he went but I believe the day I don’t get upset when a child leaves there is no point in doing this role.
“You are meant to get attached. It was upsetting for our children but partly because they got to know this child’s dad well. But they coped really well and simply looked forward to the next child arriving.
“They have realised they play a big part in making a difference in the lives of the children we look after. When they come home from school they play with our current foster placement, a little girl, and bond with her while I am in mum mode. I tell them they are giving her what she has never had, siblings.”
Kaylie, whose husband is a manager of a golf course, is a full-time foster carer. She says: “As long as you have patience and are willing to put in the effort then you will be fine.
“It does get hard; they are not your children and you have to deal with their families and their problems.
“Every child that comes into our home is different and some might be challenging but the support from Essex County Council is really good. There is so much training available for virtually every situation you find yourself in.”
There are now around 750 children in foster care in Essex and this number has been increasing for the past two years. In addition, the rate of children leaving care has slowed down, bringing into sharp focus the need to recruit more foster carers for children of all ages, siblings and children with disabilities.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, cabinet member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said: “Children only get one childhood. We need compassionate, capable foster parents urgently to help change children’s lives. Please consider whether you have room for another child in your home and life, they need you.”
Corrie Castleman, Fostering Team Manager at Essex County Council, said: “We need more people to welcome a child into their family as every vulnerable child in Essex needs and deserves a safe, supportive and fun-loving home to inspire our children to become well-adjusted young adults that can positively contribute to society.
“You could make a difference to a child’s life. Please contact our friendly team to answer any concerns you may have. Don’t just think you will not be suitable or needed.”
To talk to people like the Barbers and find out about some of the children you could help, call 0800 801 530 or attend a Drop-In Fostering Information Event in Basildon on 15 May, Chelmsford on 18 May, Harlow on 21 May, and Clacton on 23 May.