With the offer of an environment that few others can match, farming families are being sought to help look after some of the county’s most vulnerable children.
The need for foster parents is great. At any one time in North Yorkshire alone, the county council’s Fostering North Yorkshire team looks after up to 340 children in need of foster care.
Like farming it’s not just a job, it’s a way of life.Trudy Sanderson, a foster carer who farms on the North York Moors
These children are of all ages and backgrounds and are in need of differing support.
Martin Kelly, head of children and young people’s resources at North Yorkshire County Council, explained the type of situations that require intervention.
“Although children who are fostered may be experiencing a period of uncertainty in their lives, and have additional emotional needs because of their earlier experiences, like all children, in a safe and loving environment they are likely to grow and achieve great success. The emotional rewards for their carers are likely to be unmatched by any other experience.
He said fostering can be enormously fulfilling and financial support makes it viable for foster parents.
“Being a foster carer is an incredibly important job, as you are helping to develop positive experiences and skills that have sometimes been missed out on earlier in life. And we know from talking to the families we work with that watching a child grow in confidence, learn new things and take small steps to a better future gives them an amazing sense of achievement.
“Fostering also brings with it a generous tax-free allowance for each child and while this is not the main motivation for most foster carers, it is a consideration especially in the farming sector where additional income streams can be very welcome.”
Martin wants to identify more people like Trudy and David Sanderson who farm on the North York Moors and have fostered with Fostering North Yorkshire for almost 10 years.
The couple have three children of their own and Trudy has worked in childcare in the past.
She said: “Like farming it’s not just a job, it’s a way of life. There are tough times but anyone considering this needs ‘stickability’ and perseverance. In return, the rewards can be really great.”
Her husband, David, added: “Fostering will impact on your whole family - and not just the main foster carer - and a foster child will generally need a lot more attention and input than your own child. But don’t worry if you have kids of your own, this won’t be an obstacle to fostering.”
A farm setting can be an ideal environment for foster children, as Trudy explained: “The children that come here love the fact that there’s room to play safely and make as much noise as they want.
“We also believe that living with all our animals is a major bonus. Learning how to behave with animals and conquer any initial fears helps them go on to build relationships with people and develop social skills that are such a vital part of any child’s development.”
Inevitably the time comes for children to move on and Trudy admitted that this can be tough.
“It can be difficult - for example we once fostered twin babies for just over a year. When they were adopted, that was the toughest one of all. But many of the children we have fostered over the years are still in touch.”
On the Yorkshire coast, Briege Robertson’s parents are farm-based foster carers.
She said: “We help the children learn how to behave with animals, be safe around them, and experience a different way of life. Sometimes they are wary of the animals when they arrive, but they usually develop a liking for them quite quickly.
“I like helping my mum work with the children - it’s always sad when they go, but I’m still in touch with some of them and I always feel they have gone away much happier than when they first came to us.”
FARMERS HAVE IMPORTANT SPECIAL SKILLS
Fostering North Yorkshire wants to increase its roster of foster carers and welcomes individuals, families and couples of any background or experience. The aim is to keep children as close to their existing families and friends as possible and arrangements can last for a few weeks or months, or long term care.
Martin Kelly hopes farming families will consider the role: “We believe that many farmers and smallholders have important skill sets and special qualities to offer.”
For more information, call Fostering North Yorkshire on 01609 534654.