Foster carers make a real difference to a child’s life at a difficult time.
Giving a child a loving, safe and secure home, helping them to thrive and improving their chances in life, is an amazing and rewarding experience. Could you be a foster carer? During Foster Care Fortnight (May 14 – 27), our staff will be out and about across Lambeth answering your questions. Come and find out more!
At Lambeth, we are committed to giving our young people the best possible start in life. Having a safe, secure and stable home to go to is something the vast majority of Lambeth children experience. But for some children, family life will break down. This can mean the child is brought into the care of the local council for a short time.
Foster carers are valuable people and work with social workers and other professionals to support children in care. They give a child a warm and loving home and a stable family routine during a difficult period of their life.
Councillor Rachel Heywood, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “Foster parents are amazing people. They welcome a child into their home during a chaotic period of their life. Their love, care and support is integral in giving that child stability, security and resilience at a difficult time.
“We value our foster carers, and in addition to getting an excellent induction, ongoing training and regular support from a dedicated social worker and peer groups, we pay our foster parents one of the best allowances of any council in London to support each child in their care.
“During Foster Care Fortnight, we will be searching for new foster carers to join us and there will be lots of opportunities to find out more about this brilliant role, so come and speak to us.”
As part of Foster Care Fortnight, our staff will be out and about at a number of locations talking to people who are interested in becoming foster carers. In addition, we will be announcing the winner of our ‘foster carer of the year’ competition and launching our new Facebook page.
In Lambeth, there are many children that need fostering. These children come from all walks of life and range from babies to teenagers. They could need support for a day, a week or a month, but as a foster carer you will look after them until they are ready to go back home, move to a permanent family or live by themselves.
Anyone can apply to be a foster carer – all you need is a room in your home and time in your life to provide a child with some stability and care for however long they need it. You’ll get an induction, ongoing training, and support from our fostering team and social workers plus a generous weekly tax free allowance for each child that you foster.
Our staff and foster carers will be out and about in Lambeth talking to people about fostering. Come and see us at the following locations:
May 15: Outside Brixton Tube Station between 8am and 10am.
May 15: Between Morleys and Bodyshop in Tunstall Road, Brixton between 10am and 2pm.
May 17: Tesco in Acre Lane in Brixton between 1pm and 4pm.
May 21: West Norwood Railway Station between 8am and 10am.
May 22: Outside Streatham Railway Station off Streatham High Street between 8am and 10am.
May 23: St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster Bridge Road, between 10am – 1pm.
May 24: Outside Stockwell Tube Station between 8am and 10am.
Notes for Editors:
A selection of case studies is attached for your use.
We need foster carers from different backgrounds to reflect the diversity of the borough. Here a married couple, a single person and a same-sex couple who all foster for Lambeth Council share their experiences.
Viv and Brian Sharp
When Viv and Brian Sharp started fostering in 1977 little did they realise that it would play such an important part of their life 35 years later.
But having fostered more than 100 Lambeth children, they remain as committed and dedicated to supporting children in care as they did when they first signed up.
“Yes it has its challenges, but seeing children settle and watching them thrive and become different and happier mean the rewards make it worthwhile,” said Viv, who lives in Streatham. “If you really want to make a difference to a child’s life, then consider becoming a foster parent. We did, and we’ve never looked back.”
After having their own children, Viv was interested in working with children. She was overheard having a conversation about that by someone who worked with foster carers who asked her to consider applying to become one instead.
In the three decades the couple have been fostering, their own three children have been supportive regarding the children who came into their home as brothers or sisters.
Viv said: “There has never been a time in their life when they have said ‘we don’t want this’. They are our back-up support and they still hear from their foster brothers and sisters. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
The Sharps mostly foster babies now and the circumstances by which infants come into their care reflect the change in society during that time. Viv said: “We have cared for babies who have been born with problems due to their mother’s alcohol or heroin addiction. That can mean the baby inherits the addiction which is very difficult because the baby does not understand the feelings they have. But by giving them lots of love, care, time and reassurance, they get to the other side, and that is extremely rewarding.”
The Sharps ensure their home and garden are fun and stimulating places and this helps their foster children to settle and thrive.
Viv said: “Our home is full of music! When a foster child becomes aware of music, Brian encourages them to clap along and sing. Most days, Brian has ‘garden time’ with the toddlers where we take out books, bikes, drinks, fruit, put up a tent, play ball, play guitar and end up on the swing. It doesn’t matter about the weather, we just wrap up well, and the children love it.”
Viv chairs a support group for Lambeth foster carers where people share common experiences and hear from guest speakers about different aspects of parenting.
Viv said: “The ongoing support you receive from Lambeth is excellent, but the support group offers foster carers another opportunity to chat socially about common things, share experiences and get a different perspective.”
While Viv agrees that the end of a placement can be difficult due to the attachment you build with a child, she says it is also a happy time. “When a child goes back to their parents, or is adopted, after they have been a part of your life for a period of time, it is difficult, but you remember that what is happening is good for them in the long term, and you have played your part in that.”
Yolande Hodge has been a foster carer for 11 years and believes her easy going nature is ideal for children in her care.
Yolande, from Lewisham, said: “My life hasn’t been straightforward and I was quite a challenging child myself. I can understand what some of the children who come to me have been through themselves. I like to talk to them on their terms, answer their questions and be open with them.
“The challenges are like any other you experience as a parent, but the training you receive initially and on an ongoing basis prepare you for those. Like everything, when you have more experience, it gets easier. I am also lucky to have a close and supportive family network.”
Yolande, who is single, and fosters children from babies to five-year-olds, said: “It’s not rosy in the beginning, but once you have acceptance you will see change and positive progress as the placement goes on. That’s the reward of fostering.”
One of the important aspects of any fostering placement is maintaining a relationship with the child’s birth parents. “For me, maintaining a positive relationship with birth parents is about having some rules in place at the outset. For example, I personally won’t have contact meetings at weekends or in the evenings because I have a family rule, and this works well.”
Rob and his civil partner Simon live in Croydon and have been fostering for five years.
Rob said: “The reason to become a foster carer is the difference that you make to a young person’s life. If you have, as we had, with one young man, someone who described himself as a waste of space, had no self esteem, who then six months later is able to perform something he wrote himself in front of two hundred people, and you see all the other ways you make a difference to their lives, that’s why you foster. “
Rob said their approach to fostering was to provide stability from day one.
He said: “When children come into foster care, they’ve quite often come from a traumatic background. Coming into a foster carer’s home, they are coming into a strange environment, so it’s important to keep their life as normal as possible and provide lots of reassurance, so find out the foods the like, find out TV programmes they like.
“You can then start giving them a routine that reflects that, but also that’s adapted so they know that their likes and dislikes are being recognised.”
Rob and Simon’s support has seen a number of children flourish.
Rob added: ““Yes its challenging and a 24/7 commitment, but it’s worth it.”