“Fostering is by far the most rewarding of the jobs we do because we have a lovely young person who fits really well into our family and we have lots of adventures with her.” – Jo Johnstone
Every day in Wales there are five children in need of foster care. In Carmarthenshire there are over 190 children* in the care of the local authority but only around 83 foster carers who are able to offer them the stable and loving homes that they deserve; whether that be for a few days, months or several years.
This Foster Care Fortnight (15 – 28 May), The Fostering Network, the UK’s leading fostering charity, and local authority fostering services in Wales are asking the wider business community to lend their support and make it easier for their employees to combine fostering and working.
According to The Fostering Network, nearly 40% of foster carers combine fostering with other work. This is made possible by their employers providing flexibility and time off for workers that are prospective foster carers and are going through the application process. Employees who are already foster carers, can also be allowed time off for training, attendance at panels, settle a new child into their home and to respond to any emergencies which may arise. Having the support of an employer may make the vital difference in the decision of an employee to become a foster carer.
Jo Johnstone, Head of Biology at a Welsh Medium School in Llanelli, and her wife Emma, also a qualified teacher and counsellor, had wanted to foster for a long time and started the process around three years ago, however due to the pandemic only began fostering just over a year ago. Jo said: “We are new into our fostering journey and so are still juggling fostering alongside working pretty much full time. Fostering is by far the most rewarding of the jobs we do because we have a lovely young person who fits really well into our family and we have lots of adventures with her. Social services have supported us with this, for example giving respite when we need a break and funding some additional activities. We would definitely encourage others to apply to be carers – the process gives you plenty of time to discuss possibilities and work through potential barriers. If you feel you lack confidence there are experienced foster carers who act as mentors and many training opportunities.”
Beth Handyside, who is a peer mentor for other foster carers in Carmarthenshire, has worked in education welfare and with vulnerable children. She and her husband James, who works in manufacturing, started fostering in 2018. Beth said: “Fostering was something we both wanted to do for some time and we were able to proceed in 2017. We don’t have our own children and with so much to give, energy, time, family and investment, we felt we could offer a long term home as well as an opportunity to help a young person grow. It’s hard at times but overwhelmingly it’s an opportunity to embroider our experiences on to a young person’s tapestry. Fostering is such an enriching life journey and I feel very privileged to do it.”
Marie and Mal Owen have been fostering for 6 years. Marie, who is also a peer mentor, said: ‘Looking back, we wish we had become foster carers sooner, as you can work whilst fostering. I was an assistant manager of a care company for older people at the time, and decided to follow my dream, caring for vulnerable children in need.
“We have been fostering now for 6 years and would never look back. What is so lovely is to see these children flourish, knowing they are safe, secure and have a sense of belonging. When they are cared for and listen to their confidence grows. We as a family love the children like our own, they get treated the same. They have brought lots of joy and happiness. There have been few difficulties along the way but you show them that you are always there for them, you have support from your supervising social workers and the training is very good.”
Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Social Services, Cllr. Jane Tremlett said: “The work that our county’s foster carers perform is invaluable, as they make a real difference to the lives of children in their local community.
As a local authority, we can support foster carers by providing everything you need to help you on your journey to build better futures for local children, from specialist training and support to financial allowances.”
The Foster Wales Carmarthenshire Team will be out and about round the county during Foster Care Fortnight, so if you want to find out more about the different types of fostering available and how you might be able to help children and young people in Carmarthenshire pop along for a chat. Find out where they will be on
www.facebook.com/maethusirgar call 0800 800 093 3699 or visit carmarthenshire.fosterwales.gov.wales
To become a fostering friendly employer, get in touch with The Fostering Network [email protected] to find out more.
* Figures for looked after children can fluctuate