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Campaign launched to find more foster carers in Kendal and South Lakes

The Hicks family: Back row, from left, Samaria and Judah. Front row, from left, Mary, Jeff and Cana.

A Kendal-based ‘fostering family’ says that fostering has not only changed the lives of the children they care for, but their own lives, in Cumbria County Council’s latest fostering campaign.

The county council supports 51 fostering  households in Kendal and the South Lakes, but with close to 700 children in care across Cumbria, there is an urgent need for more people to come forward to offer safe and caring homes to local children in the south of the county.

Kendal’s Mary and Jeff Hicks and their three children, Cana (18), Samaria (16) and Judah (13) have been a fostering family for nearly four years. They are approved to foster children aged one to five years old and so far have fostered five children, all boys. At the moment they have a three-year-old boy placed with them.

Mary, a teaching assistant at St Mark’s Primary School, Natland , said: “We got our first placement in February 2015 and it was exciting. We felt a little unsure but also knew we were ready as a family. Before we applied to foster and during the application process we spoke to all the children individually to make sure they were all on board and unanimously they were all sure they wanted to do it.

“Watching the children in our care develop has been one of our biggest joys as a family. Several of the children we have cared for were quite delayed when they came to us and to see them thrive and blossom is amazing.”

The whole family agree that fostering has enriched their own family life too. Jeff, a minister with the Calvary South Lakes church, said: “Our children have been so amazing in the way they responded to the challenge of fostering and it has transformed us as a family and brought us even closer together.”

Daughter Samaria, 16, agreed: “We’ve always been able to support each other while caring for different foster kids and it makes it really enjoyable.”

Her brother Judah, 13, added: “As foster carers we get a bigger picture of what’s going on in some families and it makes you more sympathetic and empathetic. It also brings us closer together as a family and bonds us. It gives us something to talk about and laugh about and brings so much to our life.”

Eldest daughter Cana, 18, who is just about to start university in Wales, would encourage other families in the area to consider fostering: “A lot of friends ask us what it’s like. It’s just such a rewarding experience and anyone who is interested at all, I would push them to give it a go.”

Cllr Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “We have an urgent need for more foster carers for children of all ages in Kendal and the surrounding area. Without more people coming forward some local children will end up being moved out of the county, away from schools, friends, siblings and all that is familiar to them.

“If you feel you could make a difference to the lives of local children by offering them a loving home, then we’d love to hear from you. As we have heard from the Hicks, fostering is one of the most rewarding things you can do.  Fostering changes lives; not just the children’s but your own as well!”

There are many different kinds of fostering, from respite care, to short-term care and long-term placements, so there should be a type of fostering to suit your lifestyle.

If you think you have what it takes, or you know someone who could make the difference, then why not become part of Cumbria’s biggest family? For more information visit cumbria.gov.uk/fostering, call 0303 333 1216 or attend an information event.

The next information event takes place at the Crooklands Hotel, Near Kendal on Saturday October 6. The event begins at 1.30pm with a short presentation from the council’s fostering experts and local foster carers.

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