Written by Karen Venditto

With an average length of service spanning 17 years across our 650 foster carers, we know we’re doing things right in the support we provide to them, and to all those looked after children we are responsible for as the local authority.  During #FosterCareFortnight, more than 70 children in the county are waiting for a family as I write.  We need more people to consider joining our fostering community now.

Foster Care Fortnight

This is a national campaign (9th-22nd May) aiming to raise awareness of the needs and opportunities surrounding fostering. We are celebrating #FosteringCommunities and the strength and resilience of everyone who contributes to them locally too.  There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ foster carer, we have foster carers from all walks of life, and so their support networks are different too – but to absolutely everyone involved, we thank you!

Different types of fostering

One size doesn’t fit all. It’s vital that fostering suits you and your family’s needs and lifestyle as well as that of the fostered child/ren.  The better the match, the best chance the placement in your home will be a success all round, allowing you to enjoy your fostering role supporting a vulnerable child to find happiness and thrive.

There are part time and full time opportunities to foster, from respite, bridging or emergency care to short or long term placements.  Sometimes we need foster carers to look after a parent and child together, passing on good parenting guidance, and we also need households who would prefer to look after older children who may be a little more independent but don’t yet have the life skills to cope living by themselves.  That’s where you come in.  If you’re over 21, have a spare room and could consider opening your heart and home to help children and young people, you could foster.

Small steps to successful fostering

The story of one new foster carer recently touched our hearts, and might encourage those already curious about fostering to begin on a part time basis like Catherine did…

School teacher Catherine decided to foster because “some children haven’t had the best start in life.Once her own children left home, Catherine felt the time was right to look into fostering for herself.

After completing the necessary training, Catherine’s first two placements were for respite care in July 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. She was part of the children’s support bubbles, caring for a 5-year-old boy for 24 hours once a fortnight and a 12-year-old girl one weekend a month.

Catherine said: “I loved it. We were busy from the moment they arrived whenever they stayed – parks, beach, train rides, watching films together.

In June 2021, Catherine began providing fortnightly weekend respite care for another 5-year-old boy, and the placement was so successful that she was asked to consider caring for him on a full-time basis.

Catherine said: “I wasn’t sure if I could provide the care he needed and work full time, but the support I received from the council made me realise it would be possible.

“It just worked and has done since day one, so with a few alterations he came to us full time as part of our family.

“He’s been with me three months now.  Small steps have rolled into this.  It’s lovely, he’s lovely.”

Cllr Bob Bowdler, the lead member for children and families, said: “Catherine began fostering during the pandemic, in what was an extremely challenging period for everyone. Despite this, our fostering team continued to find new carers and place children, working tirelessly to ensure children were safe and their carers were supported during those difficult times.”

Cllr Bowdler continued: “Some people may be discouraged from finding out more about foster care because they wrongly believe their circumstances rule them out.

“I would encourage any resident who is interested in finding out more to contact our fostering team to discuss their individual circumstances.”

Catherine’s #FosteringCommunities include her family, her colleagues and friends, all the social workers who have supported her and the foster carer who used to look after her foster child and continues to provide Catherine with advice and support.

All carers are fully supported by the Children’s Services team, with dedicated social workers, a 24-hour helpline, extensive local training, educational and therapeutic support for children and a network of support from experienced carers.

Find out about fostering

Anyone interested in finding out more about offering support to a child or young person by becoming a foster carer or caring for older teenagers as a supported lodgings provider can visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/childrenandfamilies or call 01323 464129 or 01424 726155, respectively or join one of our online ‘virtual’ information events.