Barnardo’s Cymru is urging people to consider opening their homes to a child in care after new research showed that many people believe, incorrectly, that they are too old to consider fostering.
Others think that having their own children at home, or being worried about finances, are barriers. But the charity is keen to bust the myths surrounding fostering and encourage more people to apply.
More than 7,000 children were in care in Wales last year, according to Welsh Government figures, an increase of 23% during the last decade. At the same time Barnardo’s has seen its foster parents getting older and retiring, with fewer younger people coming forward to replace them. It is proving particularly hard to find homes for sibling groups, older children and those with additional needs or from minority backgrounds.
The poll also revealed that only 2%** of people who are not currently approved foster parents would consider fostering in the next five years. A total of 14% said they didn’t think they could afford to foster or believed there is not sufficient financial support because they were unaware of the caring allowances paid to foster parents.
Barnardo’s current foster parents say giving a home to a child in care has been a hugely beneficial experience for their whole family, including birth children. Yet 15% of people questioned in Wales said they hadn’t considered fostering because they have children of their own or would like them.
Sarah Morgan is area head of business for Barnardo’s Cymru Fostering and Adoption, a not-for-profit fostering agency. She said: “The aging population of existing foster parents, coupled with fewer people choosing to become carers, is having a devastating impact.
“With record numbers of children going into care, we urge anyone who could offer a safe and stable home to a child to find out more about fostering.
“We know many people across Wales would love to foster – but they believe there are elements of their lifestyle preventing them from doing so, such as their age, financial situation, or because they have biological children. The reality is that many of these supposed barriers are myths that come from misconceptions of fostering.”
Retired nurse and grandmother Bridget Davies from Ceredigion was in her 60s when she began fostering 15 years ago and has gone on to raise three boys.
She said: “I absolutely love it. The children I’ve had have been awesome and seeing the changes in them has been so rewarding.
“Time is what they respond to best. I have found that every child I’ve fostered has been amazing but may not have had chance to show it in their past, they may have hidden it. Over time you discover their sense of humour, and it certainly helps to have one of your own.”
Corey Evans, now 24 and with a home and partner of his own, was just nine when he moved in with his foster mum Bridget.
“Bridget gave me the best feeling in the world, she always made me feel part of the family and after a couple of weeks her house became home,” he said.
Chris Williams, 60, from Anglesey has two daughters of his own but considers the six girls he has fostered over the years with wife Sarah, 46, to be just as special.
Soon after they were approved as foster parents the couple found themselves with three siblings to look after.
Chris explained, “It was hard work but good fun, we just got on with it. They integrated so well, and our wider families made them very welcome which has been so important.
“We didn’t see fostering as a job, they were our daughters straight away and we’ve enjoyed watching them grow into lovely human beings. They all call us Mum and Dad and give back so much love,” he said.
Cerys***, one of the six girls fostered by the couple, said: “Chris and Sarah have such a love for each other, such a strong bond, and seeing them interact with each other had a huge impact on me. Watching that behaviour has allowed me to go on and have a successful relationship and family of my own.”
Chris and Sarah say they have had “tremendous support” from Barnardo’s, with extensive training and social workers at the end of the phone 24 hours a day if needed.
To anyone questioning whether fostering is for them, Sarah said: “We probably thought we couldn’t do it at the time. But we don’t think of it as fostering, they are part of our family, it’s just been about bringing up an extended family. Yes, it’s challenging but the rewards outweigh everything else.”
For more information on becoming a foster carer with Barnardo’s, please visit www.barnardos.org.uk/foster or call 0800 0277 280. The charity’s lines are open from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 5pm.
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