CELEBRATING THE DEDICATION OF PEMBROKESHIRE’S FOSTER CARERS THIS FOSTER CARE FORTNIGHT
Over the last two years, families across the country have been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic.
With people unable to see loved ones, schools closed and lines of support difficult to access, communities across Wales have found other ways to support one another during these most testing of times. This is even truer for fostering families.
Many have used this difficult period as an opportunity to create an altogether more positive ‘new normal’ - not only in their lives but in the lives of local children.
According to Foster Wales, over 350 families in Wales started fostering with their local authority during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This Foster Care Fortnight (9-22 May,) Foster Wales wants to celebrate the difference that foster carers have made to children’s lives in Pembrokeshire.
From foster carers who have shown dedication over many years to those just starting their fostering journey to help give children a better future.
Foster Care Fortnight is the UK’s biggest foster care awareness raising campaign, delivered by leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network. This year’s theme is 'fostering communities' and the campaign will focus on the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers.
It hopes to shine a light on the many ways people in the fostering community have supported each other during the Covid-19 pandemic – and to highlight the need for more dedicated foster carers.
Darren Mutter, Head of Children’s Services said: “The last two years have been extremely challenging, anxiety-provoking and uncertain, but we’ve seen continued commitment and compassion from our foster carers in Pembrokeshire, who have continued to offer children and young people a loving home during the Covid pandemic despite the obvious risks to themselves and at a time when they were not even able to spend time with their own loved ones.
“All of our carers had to adapt to becoming teachers, counsellors, friends and entertainers for children who had to remain at home for long periods. This was an enormous ask of them, and was a challenge that they rose to admirably. It was humbling to see the level of dedication displayed, and the love shown for our young people by our foster carers at a time that was difficult for everyone. Words do not seem to be enough. Our foster carers deserve to be praised from the rooftops for what they have done and continue to do day in day out. Thank you to each and every one of them, from all of us.”
Foster Wales Pembrokeshire is one of 22 local authority teams in Wales, working together as Foster Wales, a national network of not-for-profit fostering services.
Foster Wales wants to encourage more people to become foster carers for their local authority so that children can remain in their local area, close to their friends and family and remain in their school. This can help children and young people retain their sense of identity during an otherwise turbulent time.
Alastair Cope, Head of Foster Wales, the national network of local authority fostering services said:
“Most people don't realise that it's your local authority, your local council, who take care of children when their family are experiencing difficulties or when children are living with abusive and neglectful situations, and it’s your local authority who finds them a safe place and is responsible for them.
“There is a wealth of knowledge in the Foster Wales local authority fostering team and dedicated social workers who all work together with local families and local schools to build better futures for local children.
“By fostering locally, you are helping children to stay in their community, with the surroundings, accent, school, language, friends and activities they know. It keeps them connected, builds stability and confidence.
“We'd encourage people not just to foster, but to foster with their local authority, which is part of Foster Wales, a not-for-profit organisation responsible for the children in our care.”
One foster carer who decided to open up her heart and her home to care for children and young people in the last year is Liz from Milford Haven. Liz and her husband Dan became a foster carers with Foster Wales Pembrokeshire in May 2021.
“After working for many years as a primary school teacher, I was aware that my classroom was a place of nurture and safety for many vulnerable children but I was restricted in the care I could offer.
“My husband and I researched foster care before the pandemic but were extremely lucky to go through the assessment phase and panel digitally. In fact, the pandemic actually gave us the space and drive needed to complete the assessment quickly as we had plenty of time to complete our “homework” tasks.
“This stage of the assessment was hugely cathartic and allowed us both to fully understand the abilities and positive traits that we could bring to fostering. Working alongside our supervising social worker, we had a young man placed with us who has brought so much fun and laughter into our home. Offering him a home close to school has allowed him to keep his sense of identity and heritage, whilst settling in to our family life.
Our lives have changed so much in the past year, changing homes and careers, offering boundless love, care and support to our foster child. He says that he feels as though he’s lived here forever, and we feel just the same way! We’re looking forward to welcoming many more young children, teenagers and young adults into our care in the coming months and years., supported them through troubled times and giving them lots of positive life experiences along the way whilst being sensitive to their individual needs.”
Mary, also from Milford Haven, was also approved as a foster carer during the pandemic.
She said: ‘”I chose at 58 to become a single mum again to two lovely boys. This time round I’m certainly older and getting wiser, but the difference is that now I have the support of the team of professionals I work closely with as well as other foster carers. It is a day to day waltz around our emotions, but the laughter makes it all worthwhile’”.
Meanwhile Sandra, an experienced foster carer, who along with the Foster Wales Pembrokeshire team supports and advises new foster carers, said: “For me fostering is a privilege.
To be able to say I was a part of a child's life and that I helped to nurture, teach and learn from that child is something I can't really put into words. They become part of our family which allows them to have a sense of belonging. I love fostering these children and young people and seeing them develop knowing I was a part of their journey.”