A couple have told how becoming foster carers has given them a new lease of life.
Now they are encouraging anyone considering becoming a foster carer to get in touch with Redcar & Cleveland Council’s Fostering Team.
David and Kay Smith, Guisborough, are new foster carers and they explained that when they became semi-retired, they wanted to commit to helping young people.
David, 59, a rhythm guitarist in a band who also works in retail, said that the couple, who have a 26-year-old daughter, had long considered fostering. Their close friends, who have fostered for years, helped reassure them about the process of becoming carers.
Kay, 56, a keen dancer who works in catering, said she was less nervous, than David, at the beginning of the process as she had worked in a school for many years, and had built relationships with many children there.
The couple said they had good support from the network of Redcar & Cleveland’s Fostering Team and other foster carers, who were all crucial in helping build their confidence.
“You have worries and questions and you hear stories and, of course, you know it’s not all going to be wonderful every second of the day, when you take a child,” said Kay. “For me, a key question was thinking about how you might interact with a child’s parents, but that – and a lot more - is explained during the process.
“One of the of most powerful courses is where Virtual Reality Headsets are used which shows how moving into a foster home might look through a child’s eyes. That really helped. We also go to support groups where you meet other foster carers. That’s really useful too. The fostering team are always on hand to help. The support is really first rate.”
David explained there were lots of different types of fostering to suit different people – but he and Kay had decided to offer emergency support to children. “We wanted the chance to take a break and have flexibility, especially when we’re just learning what to do,” he explained. “Of course, the team at the Council want you take in children when needed but there’s absolutely no pressure if you say you need a break.”
Both Kay and David were pleased about how it had gone so far. “There are far more good days than bad,” said David. “We were approved by the fostering panel to take in children on a Monday and found ourselves accepting a girl on the Wednesday. She’s still with us! She’s lovely. We were very nervous at first, but you learn to relax. We’ve had others with us since then and the really fulfilling thing is when you see them relax and start to thrive. We’ve had some feedback from the social workers that the young people have given us ten out of ten when they’ve asked about us. That gives you a really good feeling.”
And they revealed they had a ‘secret weapon’ to help break the ice with the children who have come into their lives since they started fostering in March this year – their dogs, Finn, and Darcy!
“These two have earned plenty of snacks since we fostered our first child,” laughed David. “The kids have all absolutely loved them.”
Kay said that the couple have learned as they’ve gone along. A positive is that it’s helped the couple remain active, as they go out with the children often. “We’re so active now, it’s given us a new lease of life,” said Kay. “You learn and adapt. We know there may be some rocky times. But the sense of satisfaction you get by making a difference makes it all worthwhile. You’re helping vulnerable children, after all. What could be more important than that?”
Cllr Luke Myer, Cabinet Member for Children, explained that all foster carers receive financial support to provide a loving home for vulnerable children and young people.
He said: “People like David and Kay are the real heroes of our community. Just providing a safe home to a child in an emergency for one night is wonderful and makes a difference, but, of course, many of our carers go way beyond that making a positive difference on a longer-term basis. There are lots of different types of fostering and prospective foster carers are supported, by the team, to find the best fit for them. The team welcomes enquiries from anyone who may be interested and they will be provided excellent support.
Could you help change the future of a vulnerable child or young person? All our foster carers receive financial compensation for their vital work.
Get in touch with the foster team on 01642 444087 or FosteringTeam@redcar-cleveland.gov.uk
Find out more at https://fostering.redcar-cleveland.gov.uk