There are many things that have been disrupted recently; travel, schooling and shopping to name a few. But some things have persisted through the pandemic and one of those is the need for children of all ages to be protected from harm.
Every 20 minutes, another child comes into care needing a foster family in the UK. And every day, there are about 65,000 children living with 55,000 foster families.
[The Fostering Network]
Unfortunately, not all children receive the love, care and attention that they deserve, let alone a home which provides a safe, secure and loving environment in which they can grow up and thrive. Some children spend their days in fear, being neglected, or at risk of serious harm, and we are not talking about those in a war zone on the other side of the world – it could be the family next door to you or one in the next street. That means there is still a need for foster carers to take on this demanding yet rewarding role.
Since 1997, Foster Care Fortnight™ has been run by The Fostering Network, a leading fostering charity with the aim of showcasing the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers; supporting local fostering services to raise awareness, and highlight the positive impact that fostering makes to the lives of children and young people.
The event takes place from 11th to 24th May and is usually well covered in national and local media, with celebrities and politicians from across the UK supporting the campaign. Even with the advent of coronavirus, the campaign is still running because the needs of children have not changed.
There may even be an increased need now, since many vulnerable children are spending more time with parents and family members which could result in increased risk or raise safeguarding concerns that otherwise may have been manageable.
The Fostering Network say:
“We are confident that with the participation of our members and supporters, we can adapt the campaign to the current situation both safely and successfully. There will be a bigger emphasis on online activity this year, as well as on the use of video conferencing and social media.”
The theme for this year’s campaign is “This Is Fostering”, which the charity hope will convey a varied and authentic picture of fostering. There are still many misconceptions in the wider society about fostering and especially about the children who are in foster care, and it is the charity’s aim to challenge this stigma and encourage more people to consider becoming a foster carer. They are using the hashtag #FCF20 to link into relevant events.
What is fostering?
There are many reasons that children come into the care system and different types of fostering to respond to these. It could be something temporary such as a parent’s short-term illness or temporary problem in a family that means the child needs alternative care; or it could be a case that the child is at risk and needs somewhere else to live whilst things are sorted out. Some children come into care because they arrive in the UK alone seeking asylum, and some have been subject to abuse or neglect, necessitating court action to protect them. For many, a caring foster family might be their first positive experience of family life.
Types of placement include:
- emergency – children need an immediate (usually interim) placement
- short-term (usually less than 24 months)
- long-term (over 2 years)
- short break/respite care (usually a few days a month)
- supported lodgings (young people aged 16 – 25)
- mother and baby (young mothers and their child)
- special needs
Foster carers get a weekly allowance for the children in their care that is based on:
- the age of the child
- the experience/skills of the foster carer
- the specific needs of the child
How to get involved
- Use the hashtag #FCF20 and make banners, posters, paint your nails/faces/windows or create a display in your setting or outside your house, decorate a cake or paint some stones and place them on your front garden if you have one. Be creative and share photos of your displays with The Fostering Network. There are full colour and printer-friendly versions of their poster online that you can use for free.
- You can use an online twibbon (a small image overlaid on your Twitter or Facebook profile picture to support a campaign)
- Share the FCF film on your social media sites. The film will be uploaded onto the website at the start of the campaign
- Apply to become a foster carer
- Write to your MP to raise awareness and support for fostering services – many social care budgets have been cut in recent years in real terms, and this is leaving gaps in the system
- Consider becoming a “Fostering Friendly” employer – employers of any size adopt a fostering friendly HR policy for all foster carers in their employment, including flexible working and paid time-off for training/settling-in a new child
- Run an awareness session to explain fostering to your children and reduce the stigma that children who are fostered feel. You will need to approach this sensitively and consider the impact and feelings of any children who may be fostered. You could celebrate the different family set-ups that exist within your setting, without singling people out – this could include single-parent families, same-sex relationships as well as foster families
- Make a donation to support fostering financially
Thinking about fostering?
Foster carers are either employed through their local council or an independent fostering agency. See https://www.gov.uk/foster-carers for more information and a link to a list of local independent agencies. It is usual for people to attend a talk or presentation about fostering first to get more information before applying and they will need to pass an enhanced DBS check, undergo an assessment process and interviews. The whole process can take up to 6 months, but it’s well worth it if you can positively transform a child’s life.