Loving foster carers needed

Loving and supporting foster parents are needed to fill a provision gap for children aged 11 and over in north Nottinghamshire.

Children aged 11-15 typically stay in care longer than children under five because there is less likelihood of their being adopted unless a specific family member is willing.

And there is a particular need in the north of the county, where there are more children in care and placing them internally is more difficult.

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Coun Kate Foale, who leads on children’s social care at the County Council, said: “We are extending our current fee paid scheme for fostering children aged 14 and upwards to 11 and above because of the increasing demand for foster carers for this age range.

“Being able to offer children of 11 plus stable, long-term placements is absolutely vital for their long-term wellbeing.

“The care plan for most of these children is long-term fostering, although for some the aim is for them to return to their birth parents.”

Coun Foale said making fostering a career choice appealed more to those who had worked in caring or childcare professions, but the scheme in no way excluded others from applying.

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Career changers or people whose children had grown up and flown the nest may also have what it takes.

Ashfield couple Richard and Janet Smith, pictured above, currently have three foster children – two girls aged four and five and an older boy of 11.

Said Richard (43): “When Janet and I first got together she was keen to foster even then.

“It really appealed to me but we wanted our own children too, so the deal was that that we would bring up our own family first and then revisit the idea.”

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Once their youngest child reached 12, Richard, an operational support worker at Nottingham Prison, and Janet, started the process.

They have now fostered 11 children aged 18 months to 13 years.

We saw an advert for fostering on the TV and that reignited our interest,” said Richard. “Our daughter was 12 at the time and we thought we could now juggle family life and work now manage it.

“Janet was working part-time at that stage. And while I worked full-time with the prison service, my shifts varied in length and I worked one weekend on and one off and therefore regularly got days off in the week.

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“My work has been very understanding over the years and 90 per cent of the time and I have been able to work my shifts around meetings relating to our foster placements which has been great.”

Richard added: “Every child deserves a good start in life whatever their age, and we want to give them a secure, loving home.

“Seeing a child or young person gain confidence, thrive and achieve is extremely satisfying.

“We treat the children in exactly the same way as our own and it has been helpful having the benefit of experience with looking after our own children as they journey through their teenage years.”

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Richard said, like any older children, older foster children will push boundaries, talk back to you and be stroppy.

But the couple’s approach had always been to be very upfront about house rules, set boundaries and get into routines from day one.

Getting approval to foster under this scheme would guarantee carers a minimum income of £10,400 and the scheme attracts additional tax relief over and above the normal personal allowance.

Under the 11 plus scheme, foster carers are guaranteed to receive a weekly fee of £200 per week including periods when they do not have a placement with them.

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The council is offering 24/7 support from its team of supervising social workers during the assessment process and afterwards.

It also offers varied training packages and opportunities to develop skills.

One carer will need to be home-based and the young person will need a bedroom of their own and transport.

To find out more phone 0845 301 8899 or visit www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/adoptionandfostering.