Foster carers in demand with 1,200 children needing a home
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It's the time of year when we are encouraged to think about those less fortunate than ourselves, and also to look ahead to how we could improve our lives in the coming months.
And a new campaign is offering a way for people to combine these elements and make a difference to young lives in the New Year.
Norfolk County Council is looking to bolster its 341-strong team of foster carers to deal with demand.
In a twist on traditional recruitment campaigns, the county council is using behavioural science to try and find its new cohort of carers.
Existing foster carers will be put at the forefront of the campaign to help de-mystify fostering and share their positive experiences with others.
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It is also working with iMPOWER to use psychology to better understand what motivates its forster carers, to target its recruitment strategies.
There are currently around 1,200 children in care in the county, many of whom will need fostering care – for anything from a few hours to a few years.
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Steve Ginn, who lives near North Walsham, is among 24 fostering ambassadors enlisted by the council to help the campaign. He has been a foster carer for 15 years and has cared for children from asylum seekers to those on long-term foster placements.
He and his wife now primarily care for teenagers, something he feels previous jobs working with disadvantaged young people had set them up well for.
'We thought fostering was a good way of making a difference to young people who have not got many opportunities and come from difficult situations,' he said.
'It has its ups and downs, it can be very challenging but at the same time it is really quite rewarding. Safety, security and stability is what we are trying to offer to those who cross our path.'
He said as an ambassador that he had been 'encouraged and empowered' to share his experiences to inform potential new foster carers. He also helps to deliver training sessions for new carers in Norfolk.
'You have to be thoroughly committed because it is life-changing to become a foster carer and that is something we want to get across as ambassadors,' he said.
• Anyone interested in fostering can visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/fostering.
Karen has been a foster carer in Norfolk for 19 years and has fostered more than 50 children.
She said the desire to help children 'ignited' her wish to become a foster carer.
'It is such a buzz, seeing the children turn around. There have been some extremely difficult experiences but at some point, some good will come out of it,' she said.
'There are some people who would be brilliant at it [fostering]. It is a massive responsibility, there is no other job like it, but it is a shared responsibility. It is not just up to yourself – being able to work alongside families and your colleagues is important for the children.
'Yes, it is incredibly time-consuming, but it is incredibly rewarding.'
She said the festive season could be a 'really tough time' for children in care.
'It is all about family and love and laughter and a lot of these young people have never experienced that. To be part of a child's memory at such a poignant time of year is amazing,' she said.