Wednesday 17 June 2015

As sons and daughters across the city plan Father’s Day celebrations to thank their dads, Sheffield City Council is appealing for more people to become foster carers.

In the run up to Father’s Day on Sunday 21 June, the council is encouraging men in particular throughout the city to find out more about how they can help shape the lives of children and young people who need loving homes with strong male role models.

There are currently 280 fostering households in Sheffield, but there are still not enough prospective foster carers coming forward. The council hopes to raise the profile of fostering locally in the run up to Father’s Day, which also coincides with National Fostercare Fortnight (June 1 -14) as well as thank existing foster dads for their dedication and hard work.

Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families at Sheffield City Council, said: “Father’s Day is the perfect day to say thank you to our foster dads in particular but also all our foster carers who do a fantastic job looking after some of Sheffield’s most vulnerable children and young people. Their role providing children with a loving and stable home is invaluable and can be a life-changing experience for foster carers as well as the young people too.

“There is a real shortage of foster carers nationwide and Sheffield is no different. We already have a dedicated team of foster carers in Sheffield but we urgently need more, particularly people who are happy to take care of older children and sibling groups.

“Most people can foster and we offer them support every step of the way. Being a foster carer is a professional vocation with lots of benefits, including generous allowances so people can really invest in building a loving family life for a vulnerable child. We hope Father’s Day really inspires people to take the next step and find out how they can really do something special to improve a child’s life.”

Anyone can foster, regardless of whether you are single, married, divorced, in a same sex relationship or living with a partner, retired, unemployed or working.

The level of care offered can vary from those offering short breaks or temporary care to providing a permanent home for a child or young person. Foster carers are particularly needed for older children aged 10-years-old and above and for sibling groups.

CASE STUDY 1

Martin Betts, 50.

Martin was inspired to become a foster carer four years ago following a seven-year career in the army and then as a builder. His son, James, had just turned 18 and encouraged him to find out more about fostering.

He has fostered eight children and young people so far and now cares for two young boys aged 10 and 12.

He said: “Being a dad is the best job in the world and I hope that Father’s Day really inspires other men out there like me to consider being a dad and role model to vulnerable children who really need a lot of love and a stable home. When I came out of the army I thought being a single man would prevent me from being a foster carer, so I was really surprised when I found out I could.

“My two sisters were already foster carers at the time so I had already seen how rewarding they found the experience and what to expect. James also gave me the confidence to look into a career in foster care as he said I’d done a great job bringing him up.

“The Sheffield Fostering Service’s social workers guided me through the selection process from the beginning, helping me fill in application forms and helping me understand what to expect. I was apprehensive at first because I didn’t know what kind of child I’d be asked to look after and what problems they might have.

“The first boy who came to me had ADHD and had trouble making friends but by the time he left me I’d really helped turn his life around and he was a smashing lad. Letting him go was the biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome as a foster carer because I really loved him and wanted to keep him.

“Now I have two boys aged 10 and 12 and they are amazing. They are exceptionally well behaved, although like most boys they don’t tidy their bedrooms! It’s so nice for me to have young children around the house again, it’s full of noise, smiles and laughter. It’s lovely to reflect on how they have grown and how much we feel like a family on Father’s Day.

“They really appreciate everything I do for them and I think they do look up to me and respect me. It’s so rewarding to be a father figure in their lives. I think I’ve been a good role model for them and we have a good time together watching football and going fishing.

“Seeing the difference you can make to a young person’s life has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I would recommend to all dads, mums and families out there to look into being a foster carer. There’s loads of training and support and it’s a great way of giving something back to the community.”

CASE STUDY 2

Royce Simpkins-Oldfield, 50, and his partner Martyn Oldfield.

Royce and Martyn have been foster carers for five years, caring for dozens of children and young people. They are currently fostering four boys aged 17, 10, nine and eight-years-old and say it has been a life-changing experience for them both.

Royce said: “I used to be a foster carer many years ago and loved it. When Martyn and I got married I knew instinctively it was something I wanted to do again. I knew it would be rewarding and make me happy to give a child a loving and secure home.

“Our lives now are full and happy. As you can imagine with four boys, it’s chaotic but a lot of fun. They are brilliant boys and certainly keep us on our toes. We spend almost every weekend at our caravan near the coast where we do a lot of walking and playing outside.

“I think some families can take for granted being able to host birthday parties and go abroad on holidays but for us we’ve always made these occasions special. Just seeing their faces as they blow out their birthday candles or see a new holiday destination for the first time is just wonderful because they may never have experienced those things if they hadn’t become part of our family.

“Our experience of fostering has been so rewarding but it’s not just about providing the material things like holidays and birthday presents. Every day is different and brings its own challenges, especially as our eight-year-old has ADHD. But we are completely committed to caring for our boys. It entails a lot of difficult decisions and sometimes you have to be consistent as well as nurturing and reassuring. It’s all worth it when you see the difference you are making to their lives.

“I would recommend fostering to anyone who might be interested in welcoming a child or young person into their lives. I think anyone who is loving, caring and patient would have the ideal qualities of a foster carer. There are loads of support networks out there and training opportunities.

“I would recommend talking to other foster carers like Martyn and I in the first instance to find out what experiences they have had. The information evenings run by the Sheffield Fostering Service are a really good place to start too. I’d also recommend doing things gradually too, perhaps taking children on a short-term basis or for holiday and support care to see what it’s like. It’s a massive decision but one I’m sure people wouldn’t regret.”