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West Cumbria fostering campaign aims to show ‘there are so many ways to care’

Anne and Ron Little

In its latest foster carer recruitment campaign launched this week Cumbria County Council is keen to highlight the many different types of fostering, which can fit with different lifestyles.

The council already supports 62 fostering households in the west of Cumbria but urgently needs more people to come forward to offer safe and caring homes to local children who, for a variety of reasons, can no longer be cared for by their own families.

Many people who consider becoming a foster carer are not aware that there are many different types of fostering. This includes short and long term, respite, specialist parent & child or baby placements, fostering siblings, emergency fostering and other types. There are so many ways to care.

Flimby couple Anne and Ron Little have fostered with Cumbria County Council for 16 years. They started off doing short term fostering and then three years ago became respite carers.

Anne said: “Even before we had children of our own we knew that we wanted to foster in the future. Then when our children were getting a little older friends in the village were foster carers and my husband said he thought it was definitely something we could do too. We had plenty of space and so we decided at that time to become short term foster carers for children younger than our own.

“The longest placement we had was three and a half years and with some children they stayed just a couple of nights. I still know all the children’s names and we are still in touch with most of them. I have never counted how many we’ve had but it must be around 40 children.

“The biggest reward is seeing the small changes you can make. We are people who can take joy from the small things; we had two little ones placed with us once who were globally delayed and couldn’t walk very well at 5 and 6. Then one day on holiday they were holding Ron’s hand and ran off and shouted so proudly ‘Look at us running!’. It’s those small joys that make it so worthwhile.

“About three years ago we decided to start doing respite care as short term became a bit too much of a commitment with Ron still working full time and working different shift patterns. We totally love doing respite. They children always come to meet us first before they come to stay and we find it is just really good fun having them around.  We find respite really suits us at the moment and gives us the flexibility to do our own thing, though I wouldn’t rule out short term in the future.”

Different types of fostering require different types of people with a range of experience and background.  Whether you work or are retired, are married or single, have children of your own or no childcare experience, there is likely to be a type of fostering which fits with your lifestyle.

The County Council have a number of different types of fostering schemes, reflecting the variety of needs of individual children:

Short term fostering – carers can look after children for anything from a few days to two years. This type of fostering might suit those who wish to make a difference to as many children as possible.

Long term fostering – children unable to return home may need a permanent, long term placement with a family for the rest of their childhood. This type of fostering would suit those who feel they would find it difficult to say goodbye to a child in their care after building an attachment.

Shared Care – offers short breaks to a family who have a child with a disability. Shared carers are matched with a child they could care for on a regular basis for a weekend, a holiday or occasional overnight stays. This might suit people who worked full time.

Approved Support Care (also known as Respite) – respite carers provide temporary breaks to existing carers at weekends and during holidays. People who work full time often find this type of fostering suits their lifestyle as it is very flexible and children can be placed at times that are convenient for them by prior arrangement.

Parent & Child fostering – parent and child placements are a specialist type of fostering where a young parent, usually a mother and baby, comes to stay with you at a time when they need extra support. The young mum might be having difficulties looking after their new baby, or need some extra help and advice so that they can do it well.

Specialist baby fostering – fostering a baby means you will have to be available 24 hours a day, the same as all parents. Baby foster carers are usually required to work with the birth parents, especially in the arrangements for regular, supervised contact.

Cllr Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “As our latest campaign shows, there are a range of different fostering schemes and whatever your situation, there will be a scheme to match the help you can offer.

“If you do decide to become a foster carer you will not be expected to ‘go it alone’. From your first enquiry to each subsequent placement you’ll be fully supported.”

If you are considering fostering with Cumbria County Council, why not attend an upcoming drop in session or information event:

  • Tuesday April 30 – Costa Coffee fostering drop in, Washington Square, Workington, from 12pm to 2pm
  • Saturday May 11 – Information event at the Washington Central Hotel, Workington, doors open at 10am, with presentation at 10.30am
  • Saturday May 25 – Information stand at the Party in the Park, Vulcan Park, Workington, from 11am to 4pm

For more information go to cumbria.gov.uk/fostering or call 0303 333 1216.

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