With nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of children in care in Cumbria aged over 10, the county council has launched a new campaign in Kendal to target a particular shortage of foster carers for older children and teenagers.
The campaign is looking for caring and dedicated people to join Cumbria’s ‘biggest family’ as foster carers looking after children over 10 on a permanent basis as part of its Adolescent Care Team (ACT) to prevent Cumbrian children being placed in residential care or with carers outside the county. Currently around 20 per cent of children aged 10-18 are placed outside of the county due to a lack of carers for older children in the county.
This is an exciting opportunity for those looking to make a direct and positive impact on the lives of children, whilst also having flexibility and independence in a role where they are supported every step of the way.
Kendal-based foster carers Lynn and Brian Hibbert have fostered teenage boys for 15 years.
Brian said: “We were asked to look after my sister’s 15-year-old son for the summer holidays and when he left after six weeks the house felt a bit empty and we thought, we’ve enjoyed this so much, maybe we could do it again and look after other teenagers, so we enquired about fostering.”
Lynn added: “From our initial enquiry to being approved only took four months and then we had our first child, a boy of 11, placed with us. He’d had a huge number of placements before he came to us and really tested us at first but we kept on hanging in there. In fact we’ve never given up on any of our kids.
“At the start we were naïve about the challenges fostering brings but we had some great support in those early days which helped get us through. New carers need a good support package and we had a weekend of respite every month, sessions with a counsellor and our support social worker on the other end the phone.
“We were also offered lots of excellent training and we were like sponges taking it all in. In fact you never stop learning because every child is different and is an individual. What we took from all the training and reading we did was how important it is to have empathy for the child. You have to see beyond the behaviour and think about why they are doing it.
“Not a lot of people want to foster teenagers but I feel such empathy and such a connection with them. Someone has to be there for these children. The biggest reward is seeing them blossom which can happen surprisingly quickly in a therapeutic environment. When the boys start responding to you, you can really see that your hard work is starting to pay off.”
Cllr Anne Burns, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “We have already built up a network of foster carers across Kendal and the South Lakes who can provide stable homes for many of the children who come into our care. However, it is vital that we find the right foster carers to support more of our older children who often have the most challenging behavioural and emotional needs.
“We know that the stability and love of a family environment can really help these young people to reach their full potential and we hope to find those special people to help them make the transition into adulthood.
“Fostering is not always easy but for doing an extraordinary job, you’ll receive an extraordinary package of emotional, financial and practical support. If you have a spare room and feel you could offer a home to older children then please get in touch with us. You could be just what we are looking for.”
As part of the campaign an information evening will be held on Tuesday October 1 at the Castle Green Hotel in Kendal, which starts at 6pm and includes a presentation and also an opportunity to speak to our team and carers. People can also find out more at cumbria.gov.uk/fostering or by calling 0303 333 1216.