Could you become a foster carer?
The Fostering Network's annual campaign to show how foster care transforms lives takes place from 14 - 27 May.
Foster care provides a stable family life for children and young people, who are unable to live with their parents at a point in time.
Amicus Foster Care is an independent fostering agency supporting families to care for Children and Young People who are looked after by local authorities in Bristol and the surrounding area. The agency, rated as Outstanding by Ofsted, has a dedicated placements team who work closely with social workers and foster carers to create positive matches with young people to provide a nurturing and stable environment within a foster home. The organisation has 42 children in their care supported by 31 families.
“It's something that I’ve always been interested in,” explained Maura Knight* from North Bristol who’s been a foster carer for the past 18 years. After qualifying as a social worker, Maura decided she wanted to be able to make a bigger difference by being more hands on as a foster carer:
“I went with an agency who had experienced staff and who could offer a good package of cover to support the foster carer as well as the child. I also wanted an agency who valued my views as part of the care team.”
Maura is a single carer for Amicus and cares for teenagers who have been with her since primary school. She has looked after ten children since 2000, four of them on a long-term basis, preparing all of them for their adoption placement.
Maura said: “I always wanted to be a foster carer and I still find it exciting. If you are thinking about it, just do it. Reach out and make a difference to a child. Anybody can do it, even if it’s offering respite care you can still have a positive influence in a young person’s life.
“It’s also important for foster carers to have a good network of support around them; the support of other people in your life matters, and you will find that you gather people around you who understand what you are doing.
“Children and young people need to learn to trust an adult again; I have been able to do this because of the special support I have had from Amicus.
“Recognising that foster carers need respite and that the package of support fits their family needs is vital. Monthly support groups at Amicus where you hear about how other people face similar challenges with their foster children really helps - it’s a moment to realise that you are not on your own.”
The ethos within Amicus is that carers and staff have both individual support and guidance and attend monthly support meetings to provide and receive mutual support. Alongside this, Amicus run two further support groups – one for carer’s adult children even those living away from home and one for carer’s younger children.
There is training and, as Maura explains, sometimes you have to be prepared to work on yourself and understand where your feelings and reactions to a child are coming from:
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learnt is how to understand a child’s emotions. You need to be flexible, learn skills like active listening and to help them make sense of what has happened to them. Saying that, you also need to work with your foster child to help them look forward. There is nothing more rewarding than when a child begins to enjoy life again.”
An information evening to find out more about foster caring as a professional paid career choice is being held by Amicus Foster Care at St Werburghs Community Centre on May 28, 6.30 - 8pm. If you have been thinking about fostering come along and get an insight into the world of foster care and the difference you can make to a child’s life. Amicus stress that your experience, skills and approach to life are more important than your age, marital status or sexuality.
To book a place on the information evening or to just to have a private chat call: 0117 955 5039 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.