In a bid to inspire people to consider fostering, Foster Wales Bridgend has just joined the national campaign, ‘bring something to the table’ – an initiative highlighting how everyone has something to offer those vulnerable young people and children in need of foster homes.
Aiming to recruit over 800 new foster families by 2026, Foster Wales’ bold objective starts with their new campaign, which draws upon the real-life experiences of foster carers. The stories shared reveal how it’s the small, but significant, human attributes that people possess which can make the world of difference to a young person in care.
The angle of the campaign is in response to consultation with a range of people, including foster carers, social workers, teachers, members of the public, and care leavers. Discussions revealed how three key issues made potential carers reluctant to enquire about the role:
- A lack of confidence in their skills and ability to support a child in care.
- The belief that fostering doesn’t fit with certain lifestyles.
- Misconceptions around the criteria to become a carer.
In light of this, Foster Wales has used the real stories of carers across the country to illustrate that local authority fostering is flexible, inclusive, and comes with extensive training, as well as professional development opportunities.
Foster carers, Kerry and Sharon, have 15 years of experience and predominantly foster teenagers. Last year they were awarded the ‘Teenage Whisperer’ Award at the Bridgend Fostering Recognition Awards.
Many of the young people they have fostered pop back for a Sunday roast, or a cup of tea and a chat, and they’re both always happy to share their knowledge and experiences with other foster carers.
“For us, patience and resilience are two top skills that you need to foster children of any age, but especially teenagers. You can’t take everything personally, don’t take things to heart, and eventually you will get that ‘thank you’. Those two little words are so rewarding to hear.
“Recognising their needs and having the confidence to speak up on their behalf is also important, because as a foster carer, you are their advocate. It’s also about giving them a normal life and welcoming them into your family, because they are part of your family, no matter how long they’re with you.
“Giving them your time and your respect works wonders, and more often than not, they learn to respect you too. We have many of our previously fostered young people coming back for a catch up, or for Sunday lunch. The potential they have is huge, they just need the right guidance, support, and care to get there.
“We already had all the skills we needed to become foster carers – and more people need to know they have the skills too.”
Currently, Wales is leading the way for children’s services and is in the process of a whole system change. The changes proposed in the 2021 co-operation agreement between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru, made a clear commitment to ‘eliminate private profit from the care of looked after children.’
This means, that by 2027, care of children that are looked after in Wales will be provided by public sector, charitable or not-for-profit organisations. Presently, with more than 7,000 children in the care system in Wales, but only 3,800 foster families, the need for local authority foster carers is greater than ever.
Deputy Leader of the council, Councillor Jane Gebbie, said: “Our local authority foster carers in Bridgend do an incredible job in supporting children, by offering their skills, experience, empathy, and kindness to ensure the children feel safe and secure.
“We need to recruit more people in our local authority to guarantee that all fostered children have a welcoming home, and crucially, the right foster carer to match their needs. Lots of people may think fostering isn’t for them and may rule themselves out because they think they are too young or too old, single, or already have children. We welcome foster carers from all walks of life, of all ages and circumstances.
“Our team in Foster Wales Bridgend ensures our carers have access to dedicated local knowledge and support, alongside a brilliant learning and development package. This, combined with the everyday skills many prospective carers may already have, is a huge help in keeping children in their local community, close to friends, their school, and everything they hold close. In other words, giving our children the very best start in life.
“We encourage anyone who wants to make a difference to a child’s life to bring their skills and experience to the table and get in contact with Foster Wales Bridgend.”
The campaign started on Monday 8 January across TV, streaming services, radio, digital, social media, and with various events in local communities across Wales.
For more information about fostering, or to make an enquiry, please visit the website.