Nearly 25 teenagers are looking for a foster home or supported lodgings at any one time in Swindon.
Their plight is being highlighted by Swindon Borough Council as part of national annual awareness campaign Foster Care Fortnight (17-31 May).
This year’s campaign, entitled ‘Do you have the skills to foster’, highlights the needs for more foster families. It will encourage people to consider fostering and the focus on the personal and professional skills that a modern carer needs to fulfil their role as a child care expert.
Cllr Garry Perkins, Cabinet Member for Children Services, said: “When people think of fostering, more often than not images of young children and babies spring to mind and these are the ones people go on to foster, but there are many vulnerable teenagers out there who need a safe, loving home as well so I hope this national campaign goes some way to helping this cause.”
Locally, the council would like to find more foster families for teenagers – the hardest age group to home. It is also appealing for more supported lodgings carers. This is a form of independent living in a family setting for young people aged 16-21 who may have been in foster care and are not yet ready to live on their own.
John Toner, 19, moved into supported lodgings in Swindon when he was 16 after being in the council’s care system since he was a boy. He said: “I was very nervous and didn’t know what to expect but was welcomed into my new home with open arms. I was treated as one of the family and was able to be myself.
"The family taught me essential life skills such as budgeting, cooking, cleaning, shopping, ironing and washing laundry. They also taught me to respect others and understand the importance of education. All of this helped me to be more confident in society and it gave me the skills needed to live on my own.
"I have lived independently for the last three years but we still maintain regular contact with each other and often talk about the fun time that we had together.
As part of the campaign, the council is manning an information stall in the Brunel Centre from Monday 17 May to Sunday 23 May, where there will be foster experts on hand to answer any questions from the public.
The council has worked with foster carer Sandra Samra and her husband Resh, for five years. She said: “Fostering has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. To see a child come into your home scared, anxious, severely neglected and abused is dreadful. However, to see them leave you a happy go lucky, confident, well cared for child with a bright future is totally fantastic.
"Every child is different so there is always something new to learn, and after five years of fostering I am still learning and enjoying my role. I would encourage anyone to step forward and give a child a home.”
Liz Ringham and her husband John have been supported lodging carers for the council for 13 years. Liz said: “Never underestimate the importance of supported lodging carers. You are responsibly for helping to change the life of a young adult who needs your help. You provide a secure and living home for them to live in and return to everyday, and provide a sense of structure in their life. It is highly rewarding. You have tears but more importantly you have many laughs along the way. The kids themselves are your reward.”
More information about Foster Care Fortnight can be found at www.couldyoufoster.org.uk/fcf. Alternatively, call the council’s family placement team on (01793) 465700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org