Becoming a foster parent may be the most difficult decision a person can make. It will bring challenges and hard work. But the rewards are incomparable and the knowledge that they have had a profound and positive effect on the lives of young people will stay with a carer forever.
Foster Care is a service for children and young people who cannot live with their own parents for any number of reasons, such as an illness in the family.
A foster carer will take the child into their own family and look after them for anything from a few days to several months, or on some occasions for a year or more.
The combination of the problems which has led a child to need a foster family, and moving from their own home and familiar surroundings, can be upsetting. So a foster carer needs to be patient, have the ability to accommodate the needs of a vulnerable child and to be able to talk openly and listen to the young person in their care.
Children in care may also need regular visits with their own family.
It takes around eight months to become an approved foster carer - this is from the initial stages of finding out more information about fostering, to the preparation stages which include training and meeting experienced foster carers and staff within the fostering service.
There is a dedicated team of experienced assessors who would be able to undertake assessments almost immediately.
Councillor Dai Rees Jones, Gwynedd Council’s Social Services portfolio leader, said:
“We believe that children are best cared fore within a family setup. When their own family cannot look after them, for whatever reason, recent research has shown that stable care of a foster family within the community is the best option for any child to settle and thrive.
“I would urge anyone who believes they have what it takes to become a foster parent to seriously consider the role.
“Do you have energy, patience, understanding and a sense of humour and want to change a child’s life for the better? Please contact Gwynedd Council’s foster service for more information.”
Some children and young people have specific needs because of a physical or learning disability. If the carers are able to offer a placement for these children the service will help carers to accommodate these needs. In all placements, Gwynedd Council is legally obliged to take into account a child’s religious, cultural, racial and linguistic background whenever he or she is placed with a new family.
Gwynedd Council’s Fostering service can offer:
- Information for people thinking of becoming foster parents
- Assessments of foster care applicants
- Training and support for new carers
- On-going support for foster carers
- Regular professional supervision
- NVQ training, up to level three
- Annual training programmes
For more information, contact the team via the Gwynedd Council website www.gwynedd.gov.uk/fostering e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01286 682660.
An empty nest, and the longing for the hustle and bustle that inevitably comes with a house full of children, spurred one Gwynedd woman on to becoming a foster carer.
Angela Williams, 48, from Y Bala became a foster carer to two young boys last May and has never looked back. She said that thanks to the support of Gwynedd Council’s fostering service, her family, friends and the local community, it has been a rewarding and heart-warming experience.
A former childcare lecturer, Angela and her husband decided to make enquiries about foster care after their own three children had grown up and left home.
She said: “I found the nest empty, we had always had such a busy house and I wanted to fill it with the noise of children once again. I also wanted to give something back to community.”
The process of becoming a foster carer was a thorough one – involving assessments, a course and going before a panel.
The course, which included talks by other foster carers and social workers, were extremely valuable according to Angela and gave a taste of the challenges ahead.
“That first night when the boys arrived, it felt as if all hell had broken loose,” she said. “But it has been absolutely superb since then, the boys have fitted into our family life perfectly and we feel we are very well matched.
“I joke that I should be careful what I wish for. The kitchen cupboards and fridge needs filling again every other day. The washing machine is constantly on and I never get to the bottom of the ironing pile, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s lovely to hear children playing in the garden again and to play games and read stories together.
“The biggest challenges for us were readjusting to having children around and for everyone to get to know one another. We were strangers at first and we were determined to make the children feel comfortable in their new home.
“It has been an extremely positive experience, I won’t allow it to be negative. The good always far outweighs any bad points.
“The support we have from the Social Services has been brilliant. The boys have a social worker and we have a social worker of our own. It is really valuable to have someone to talk to who will just listen.
“My advice to anyone who is considering becoming a foster carer is to make sure you have the support of your family before you embark on the journey. You will also need a sense of humour, empathy and tolerance.”