NATIONAL FOSTER CARE WEEK Exciting Life That's Its Own Reward
SANDWELL Social Services has been fostering for about 10 years now and during this time it has cared for children from the age of five days old up to 16 years.
A spokesman said: "It is a new experience every time as every child is different with its own needs or problems. This is not to say that the children are the problem, they come to us often through no fault of their own.
"It is not just a matter of physically caring for the children, they also have emotional, spiritual and educational needs which means that you often have to liaise with various other agencies."
A Sandwell foster carer said: "The three children that live as part of our family are placed long-term which means that they will live with us until they become independent.
"This is not always the case, children can stay with you for any amount of time such as for a few days in times of crisis, or short-term until they are moved to a suitable, permanent foster family or they return home."
As part of the assessment process prospective fosterers receive training which gives them a foundation for the skills they may need. Post approval training is offered to build upon these, but experience gathered as they tackle each new situation and work with the children is invaluable.
The carer contined: "It is never a dull life when you foster, there is always something new to learn which you have to take in your stride.
"You have to be non-judgemental and when faced with new challenges know where to seek the appropriate help.
"You sometimes have to acknowledge that a placement is going to break down. This can be the hardest part of fostering but you have to remember that we all have different skills and sometimes we may be unable to help a particular child. It is better to address this and move the child on to someone else who can meet the child's needs.
"This is done as a last resort and you are not left on your own, the child's social worker and your own linkworker will try to work with you and the child to resolve any difficulties.
"The support doesn't end there, we have support groups where you can meet and talk to other foster carers to ask for advice and share experiences."
A group of carers have formed The Voice for Foster Carers in Sandwell, a forum which meets to discuss and try to resolve any issues which foster carers and/or the children they care for may have.
They have set up a helpline, which enables fosterers to speak to another carer, and send out a quarterly Newsletter to keep carers informed of any new developments.
The carer added: "We have enjoyed our time as foster carers, there have been times when we have felt like giving up but with support we have continued and there have been rewards.
"It is a great feeling when a child moves successfully back home or into independent living, or when they come back to visit you which makes it all worthwhile."
Sandwell Foster Carer
What is foster care?
Foster carers provide care for children or young people in the carer's home, while their own parents are unable to look after them. This is usually a temporary arrangement and most fostered children return to their own families. For those who cannot return, but for whom adoption is not applicable, long-term foster care placements may be made.
How is foster care different form adoption?
Adoption is a permanent legal transfer of parental responsibility to the adoptive parents.
When a child is fostered, legal parental responsibility remains with the child's parents, or is shared by the local authority and the child's parents. Foster carers work with the child, their parents and any extended family, and with social workers, to ensure that the child can return to their family wherever possible. …