Andy Elvin, CEO of the UK’s largest adoption and fostering charity TACT, describes the immense contribution that foster carers make on a daily basis to the lives of vulnerable children, but explains how the demand for new foster carers has never been greater.
Monday 8th May saw the launch of Welcome to Fostering, a new JKP book co-edited by myself Andy Elvin, CEO of the UK’s largest Adoption and Fostering charity TACT, and Martin Barrow, former news editor at The Times and a veteran foster carer. The purpose of the book is to explain how to become a foster carer, and what the experience of fostering is actually like, in the hope that more people take up the mantle. It is packed with case studies from actual foster carers detailing their experiences: their first placements, the challenges they have faced along the way and what it is has meant to them to be making a difference, day in day out, to the lives of these children who depend on them. It also includes case studies and quotes from children in foster care themselves.
Foster care is vital and our need for foster carers has never been greater. In 2016 there were roughly 93,000 children in state care in the UK, and nearly 75% of these children were in foster care. In England alone, there are currently 70,440 children in care, and this number has been rising steadily for some years. The demand for new foster carers is therefore ever increasing, especially for those who will care for older children and sibling groups.
Lord Laming recently described foster carers as ‘Heroes of the State’, and he is absolutely right about this. Every day, every week and every year, an army of altruistic, selfless and dedicated foster carers look after children who are amongst the most vulnerable in the UK, and through their daily interaction with them, they come to learn that these children are full of amazing and sometimes limitless potential.
Fostering isn’t easy, it is not for everyone and if you choose to become a foster carer you will learn a great deal about the lives that some families lead, and you will also learn a great deal about yourself. Fostering demands patience, empathy, creativity and above all compassion and desire to help children recover from trauma and neglect and to grow up to fulfil their true potential. To borrow the words of TACT ambassador Lorraine Pascale in the foreword to the book, “Foster families are not only important through childhood but remain important throughout life. It is important that the immense value and positive impact of foster care is recognised, and that more ordinary people consider doing something extraordinary for vulnerable children and young people, and that is to become foster carers. This book offers real-life accounts by foster carers and young people in care, as well as expert advice and case studies. What I am most pleased about is how positive it is, and how it reflects the hopes and aspirations of so many children in foster care and their foster carers. It also highlights what I know, from my own life, to be true, that good fostering can build brighter, happier futures for children and young people.”
We hope that reading this book will encourage you to seriously think about foster care. Deciding to become a foster carer is, in part, an emotional decision but it must also be a decision made with a clear minded understanding of what you are committing to. It is no less than the opportunity to transform a child’s life. Good foster care and good foster carers are one of the most valuable resources the UK has. Very few other roles allow you to make such a positive impact on the lives of others. Fostering is transformative for both the child and adult.
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