With 775 foster carers needed across Yorkshire, an awareness campaign to encourage more people to apply has just been launched. Catherine Scott reports.
Being a foster carer is a challenge, but it is one that Jamie Lewton and his partner Simon Midgley were determined to take.
“We had talked about having children of our own, but we decided that we would like to foster first. We felt we were in a position to help make a difference to young people’s lives,” says 30-year-old Jamie, from Leeds. “The rewards are phenomenal. Just being able to make a difference to a child’s life is so rewarding and to see those smiles is even better.”
Now Jamie and Simon are supporting Fostering Solutions agency in its bid to recruit more foster carers. The agency is holding an awareness event in Sheffield today. The event is open to everyone, although the agency has seen a steady increase in the number of same sex foster carers.
Fostering Solutions currently has 28 same sex foster carer households, a 154 per cent increase since January 2011 and 42 children are currently placed with same-sex foster carer families.
In November 2002, the Adoption and Children Act passed into law and, for the first time, allowed unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, to apply for joint adoption. You can also adopt as an individual. The Act came into effect on 30 December 2005.
“We received a vast amount of training and counselling before we were eventually approved to be foster carers in the June,” says Jamie, who is now a full time foster carer after being made redundant from his role in HR. “A few months later we received a call saying there was a seven year old boy who needed a home. We were excited, but a little apprehensive. He came to us straight from school and had nothing other than his school uniform.”
The little boy stayed with Jamie and Simon for three months and the difference the couple made in him was clear from the beginning.
“After the first week he came home from school beaming. He’d got an award for attendance. It was the first time he managed to go to school for an entire week. That smile made everything worthwhile.”
In the last two years Simon and Jamie have fostered six children of varying ages although they are approved to foster children from 0 to 18. At the moment they are caring for a 16-year-old with autism and a nine year old, both who have been in a variety of foster homes since birth.
The length of time they foster the children for also varies, although the teenager has asked to stay with them until he is 21.
“It was be so rewarding to see him turn into an adult,” adds Jamie.
A recent report revealed that 775 fostering families will be needed right across Yorkshire and the Humber in 2016, to give loving homes and supportive family environments to children. The national need is for 7,600 foster families in England, 800 in Scotland, 500 in Wales, and 170 in Northern Ireland.
In particular there is an ongoing and urgent need for more homes for teenagers, disabled children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, and sibling groups.
Figures show that two in five fostered teenagers are already living with their third foster family since coming into care, and one in 20 teenagers are living with their 10th family in foster care.
“Most of these children want to be loved and listened to, and to have some routine in their lives, where they just haven’t had any before,” says Jamie. “We get so much support and the key is to have the confidence to ask for help if you need it.”
Fostering Solutions is holding an awareness event for anyone interested in becoming foster carers tonight at Hoylandswaine Village Hall, Haigh Lane, Hoylandswaine, Sheffield. The event starts at 7.45pm and for more information go to fosteringsolutions.com