Appeal for more foster carers to provide homes for Norfolk’s children

Saturday, February 22, 2014
10:37 AM

An appeal has gone out to people to come forward to foster some of the most vulnerable children in Norfolk.

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Facts and figures

Nationally:

Every 22 minutes a child comes into care in need of a foster family.

On any one day there are more than 62,000 children living with foster families across the UK.

There are now more children than ever coming into care.

Around two-fifths of the children in care are aged 11 to 15.

In Norfolk we currently have:

320 task-related foster carers who are looking after approximately 420 youngsters.

35 short-breaks carers providing respite to children with disabilities.

Why are some children in care?

Children come into care for a whole range of reasons. This can be when there are serious concerns about a child’s safety, care and well-being.

Some children may have been abused or neglected. Their parents may have severe mental health problems, learning disabilities, drug/alcohol misuse, or be in difficult and violent relationships.

More foster carers are being sought to provide homes for some of the 1,135 looked-after children in the county.

While choosing to foster is a big decision, many people do not realise that foster carers can be unmarried couples, same sex couples or single applicants, both male and female.

However, health, age, accommodation, availability, financial stability and family circumstances are all taken into account when deciding if someone is suitable.

James Joyce, cabinet member for safeguarding children at Norfolk County Council, said: “Foster carers do an incredible job looking after some of the county’s most vulnerable children. Their hard work and commitment can have a significant impact on children and young people during what can be a very difficult period in their lives.

“The support and care that foster carers provide makes a huge difference to children’s lives, helping them to gain confidence and trust and giving them much needed stability. Fostering is a rewarding and challenging vocation and we really do need people to come forward who have the time and commitment to meet the needs of children who, more often than not, need more support than other young people of their age.

“There are a range of different types of fostering and we will always need people who can look after sibling groups and older children. We are also keen to hear from people who can look after young people for short periods, perhaps because they have got into trouble or because there is a crisis at home and the family needs support to ensure that the child or young person can, sometime in their future, safely return home.

“Foster carers can come from any walk of life.”

To find out more about fostering, call 0344 800 8020.

The council will be holding an LGBT adoption and fostering information event on March 6.

• OFFERING VITAL HELP TO VULNERABLE YOUNG PEOPLE

One niche area of foster caring involves looking after young people overnight who are due to appear in court the following day.

These PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) beds are used to prevent vulnerable young people from having to stay overnight in a police cell.

Norfolk is currently looking for more of these carers, particularly in the west.

One of Norfolk’s carers already working in this role is Toni Berry, a social worker who has spent her life working with young offenders.

The 50-year-old, who lives with her long-term partner and 19-year-old son near Loddon, is still a qualified social worker, but said she decided to pull back from full-time work, as she wanted to focus on helping this particular group of young people.

She said: “It tends to be just overnight. Usually we get a call in the evening and by the time they have been interviewed and spent some time in the cells they usually just want a light supper and to go to bed really.”

Toni said her son had grown up knowing about her work with troubled teens, and he could be a help when a teenager arrived earlier during the day and preferred to have someone nearer their age to talk to about music and Playstation games. She said: “Sometimes I think people hear about the offences and can conjure up this image of what a burglar looks like, or what someone who has assaulted somebody looks like, but it’s very different to what comes through the door – they are very vulnerable children.

“That’s not to minimise any offence a young person commits, because I have been a victim of a burglary myself, with the result of never being able to go back to that house. But quite often what it might look like on paper really doesn’t represent the person who comes through your door.”

Toni said most of the children she saw were aged between 14 and 16, and while the most volatile would not be considered suitable for such a placement, the majority of teens that arrived were simply very vulnerable.

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