Kent County Council (KCC) needs to recruit new foster carers to provide safe and loving homes to vulnerable children and families in the county.
The council has been backing Foster Care Fortnight 2020, a national awareness raising and recruitment campaign run by The Fostering Network (11 – 24 May), and is now calling on residents to get in touch to find out how they could improve lives through fostering.
Foster carers are needed to provide day-to-day support, love and stability to children and young people who can’t live with their birth families or offer a struggling parent a loving home where they can develop their parenting skills. During the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, KCC’s fostering services are continuing to work hard and remain committed to achieving stability and permanence for Kent’s vulnerable children now and in the future.
Last year the council met its target to recruit 120 new foster carers and is seeking to meet this target again this year by recruiting a wide and diverse range of people regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender identification, religion or sexual orientation. Carers can be single or in a relationship, own or rent their own home, have their own children or be child-free. Carers for children and teenagers are needed with a particular focus on carers for sibling groups, emergency bed and parent and child placements.
Since 2019 the number of children in the care of the local authority has risen by 229 to 1,823. However, despite around 120 new families, couples and single people taking the plunge and creating new fostering placements last year, many more are still needed.
Sometimes children only stay with a foster family for a few days, while others will live with their foster family for their entire childhood and beyond. Many of these children have experienced abuse or neglect prior to coming into care and fostering is often their first positive experience of family life.
Despite the trauma experienced by children coming into care and their difficult start to life, good foster care can help to transform their lives and enable them to flourish. Fostering offers children a safe and caring home and plays a big part in supporting them to maintain links with their birth family.
Debbie Bashford, 46, lives in Maidstone with her husband and her four children and has been fostering children for over five years. She is currently fostering a four-month-old baby.
“Having met many looked after children in my job as a teacher, fostering was something we had always considered but thought we would do once our children had all grown up. But I felt that teaching full time was taking me away from my family and so I left my job to become a full-time foster carer.
“The whole family happily gets involved with supporting and caring for our foster children and this has been a wonderful, character building experience for my own children over the years; they would much rather be part of a loving foster family than have my work taking me away from them.”
Picture: Debbie Bashford (left) and family.
Debbie and her family have fostered around 10 young children during her time as a foster carer. Some for long periods and some for short term or respite care.
“Helping children from challenging backgrounds or circumstances flourish and grow is just incredible. We cared for a 5-year-old who was not meeting any targets at school but by the time he left us he was smashing them!
“Happily, we have been able to stay in contact with some of our foster children and it is so great to be a part of their success.”
In Kent, foster carers are needed in all areas for children of all ages, including parent and child carers, disabled children, siblings and teenagers. Placements can be short term, long term or short-break respite care for children with disabilities.
After raising her own daughter as a single parent and offering short term respite care for disabled children, Katie Allen, 57, from Dartford decided to leave her job in a special education needs and disabilities school and foster a disabled child with complex needs full-time.
“My foster son was my first full-time placement and has been a part of my family for seven years. It’s been such a positive experience; nothing changed for the worse, we just do things slightly differently to allow for his disabilities.
“My family see through his disabilities to the child and have learnt so much from him. Progressing and developing his skills and watching this pay off has been so wonderful and rewarding.”
Support for foster carers is always at hand from many different agencies depending on need as well as advice and help from existing foster carers.
Katie confirmed: “Fostering any child comes with its own unique challenges, disabled or not, but help is always at hand. I’ve been fully supported all the way by social workers, health and disability support workers and my local foster carers support group. Fostering a disabled child really is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
Picture: Katie Allen (left), her daughter Sophie (right) and foster son Lukas (centre)
Parent and child placements are another option when thinking about fostering which involves placing a parent, who is experiencing difficulties, and their baby or young child in a foster home.
The foster carer helps and encourages the parent to develop their skills and occasionally provides parental care whilst observing how the parent looks after the child and keeping records.
“The role of a parent and child foster carer can offer double the rewards as you help the parent develop and learn to care for their child and see the child’s response to this. It can be intense as you are overseeing and supporting both, but the results are well worth the effort. It’s so rewarding to be able to pass on my parenting skills to those not fortunate enough to have had this support and know that both parent and child will go on to benefit from this.
Justin Dummigan, 41, has been providing the backbone of foster care in Ramsgate for 15 years. He lives with his wife and two teenage daughters and has opened his home to many types of foster children.
Currently fostering a sibling group of three teenage brothers, he said:
“We foster a lot of children locally. It’s nice to be able to make a difference to those who can’t be with their parents for a while without disrupting their lives too much.”
“The best things about fostering for me are being able to continue to use and develop my own parenting skills to help children develop and thrive as well as sharing these skills with those who need support to care for their own children.”
Picture: Justin Dummigan and wife.
Sue Chandler, Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s services said:
“Foster Care Fortnight is a fantastic way to celebrate the amazing job our foster carers do in Kent. I would also like to thank them wholeheartedly for their continued support for Kent’s children especially during the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every child in Kent deserves a safe and loving home and I would like to encourage our residents to speak to our fostering team about they how might be able to improve a child’s life by becoming one of Kent’s foster carers.”
To foster with KCC you need to:
- Have a spare bedroom
- Be a full-time resident in the UK or have leave to remain
- To be able to give the time to care for a child or young person, often on a full-time basis
In return you will receive an excellent reward package including financial benefits, local training, career progression, holiday entitlement and 24-hour support.
If you are interested in finding out more about Kent Fostering visit kentfostering.co.uk or call us on 03000 42 00 02 to find out more. Do something amazing today and Foster for Kent.
Notes for journalists:
Foster carers and council representatives are available to interview.
|As of 30th April 2019|
|All Looked after Children||1594||12 years 3 months|
|Children in foster placements||1168||11 years 7 months|
|KCC Foster carers||675||–|
|As of 30th April 2020|
|All Looked after Children||1823||12 years 7 months|
|Children in foster placements||1183||11 years 3 months|
|KCC Foster carers||685||–|