9 myths about foster caring debunked as Swansea Council launches recruitment campaign; One couple talk of their pride in helping to transform the life of a teenage girl as they urge others to follow their example.
As the number of children coming into care continues to increase, more foster carers are needed in Swansea to provide vulnerable youngsters with safe and loving homes.
If new foster families are not found, then the reality is that children are forced to live a long way from family, friends and school -- when they have already experienced trauma and upheaval.
Foster Swanseais the council's fostering service, and aims to provide high quality placements for children and young people who, through no fault of their own, can no longer stay with their birth families.
It is now looking for new foster families to care for children and young people, with the greatest need being for teenagers, sibling groups, children with complex needs, and parent and child. There is also a need to find fostering households who can provide foster care on a long term basis.
A number of roadshows are being held in Swansea as part of Foster Care Fortnight, which runs until May 27.
Foster carers perform a vital role in transforming the lives of young people in our care system, but there are still many myths surrounding fostering. There are, though, very few barriers to becoming a foster carer -- you mainly need to be over the age of 21 and have a spare bedroom.
1. Single people cannot foster.
Truth: You can foster whether you are single, in a relationship or married.
2. LGBT+ people cannot foster.
Truth: People of any sexual or gender orientation are welcomed.
3. You cannot foster if you are over a certain age.
Truth: There is no upper age limit. You just need to be over the age of 21.
4. You cannot foster if you have never had children.
Truth: Experience of working with children is beneficial but not crucial.
5. You have to own your house.
Truth: You can foster whether you rent (privately or through your local council), or own your house.
6. You cannot work and foster.
Truth: Many foster carers in Swansea work and foster.
7. Having a disability prevents you from fostering.
Truth: Having a disability would not prevent you from fostering. It is the ability to care for a child and provide a safe and loving home that matters.
8. Having a criminal conviction means you cannot foster.
Truth: A criminal conviction would not necessarily be a barrier to fostering -- it would be the nature of the conviction that would determine whether you could foster.
9. Men cannot foster.
Truth: Foster Swansea needs more male carers, particularly for teenagers.
Foster Swanseabusiness development officer Jenny Owen said: "The most important qualities that prospective foster carers need to have is the time and energy to invest in a child or young person, and they must be flexible, patient and understanding."
Fostering transforms lives, so are you ready to make a difference, like Emma and Tom Buckley?
The couple will shortly be celebrating their first year of fostering.
In their short time as foster carers, they have gone from providing shorts breaks, respite and short-term placements, to providing a loving home for a teenager.
The couple had not been able to have children of their own but with a spare bedroom and room in their lives, they felt they had something good to offer a child that needed a stable and loving home.
"We made initial contact with Foster Swansea, who were extremely friendly on the phone," said Emma. "They came out to our home for our initial visit and we attended the 'Skills to Foster' preparation training. Shortly after, we started our assessment to become foster carers. Throughout the assessment we were well supported and didn't feel that there was anything we couldn't ask or that was 'off limits'. There was no right or wrong answers and it wasn't as daunting as people made out."
With both Emma and Tom in full-time employment, they assumed that they could only offer respite, short breaks and short term placements. They also were not confident enough to jump straight into providing full time placements. Whilst her husband found respite and short breaks enjoyable, it wasn't long until Emma found it quite challenging.
"We didn't expect to feel differently and had to work through that," said Emma. "We were also honest with our social worker about how we both felt. We subsequently had an emergency respite placement of a 15 year-old girl, which turned into what we refer to as a full time placement - which in real terms can either be short or long term.
Part of the family now
"A year on and she's still with us! She has become part of our family, but also, over time we've built up a good relationship with her mother. Maintaining this positive situation is wonderfully rewarding. We much prefer having a 'full time' placement as opposed to a respite one, which is why we've had our approval changed so we are now able to offer long term placements."
Choosing to foster is not a simple decision to make and the support of a fostering team is vital in ensuring that fostering placements are successful.
Emma said: "We are very lucky with Foster Swansea. The support and training they provide us with is superb. From the very first initial enquiry through to now, we've found the workers at Foster Swansea to be friendly, approachable and understanding. In our experience, social workers have gone out of their way to help. On one occasion, a social worker took our foster girl to school when we had an emergency situation and weren't able to take her. We were and still are very grateful for that, and it really shows the level of commitment from individuals working at Foster Swansea."
Many foster carers say fostering is one of the most rewarding things they have done -- and Emma is no different.
"It's the small things that are rewarding -- like when our girl choses to come in the car with me when I pop to Tesco just because she likes my company, or when she has chosen to come to the cinema with us instead of going out with her friends," she said. "We also enjoy giving her opportunities that she wouldn't have otherwise had -- like going for days out, holidays or having a hobby.
"We're extremely proud to foster and would definitely recommend fostering to others. People shouldn't be put off thinking that they have to be some sort of hero to be a foster carer. Everyone has different abilities and things they are good at dealing with. You just need to start off with an open mind to learn new things and have empathy. Even if you can only take care of one child, you could change their whole world."
So, come and meet the fostering team
If you have a spare room and are interested in fostering, you can find out more at these information events.
You will be able to speak to the fostering team and foster carers will be on hand to share their experiences.
The Foster Swansea team also organises regular information evenings that provide friendly information on fostering, including a no-obligation chat with the team and foster carers. The next session takes place on Wednesday, May 23 May, from 6 to 8pm at Swansea Civic Centre.
Visitwww.fosterswansea.orgor call 0300 555 0111 or 01792 533212.
Zoe and Ave Williams
Swansea foster parents Tom and Emma Buckley
Swansea City legend Leon Britton is supporting Foster Swansea's recruitment campaign
Ospreys star Keelan Giles is supporting Foster Swansea's recruitment campaign