Essex County Council appeals for younger families to consider fostering

This Foster Care Fortnight (May 13-26), Essex County Council is encouraging more people of all ages to consider fostering.

The council has revealed stark figures on its ageing workforce of foster carers and is appealing for people of all ages to step forward, including younger families with busy homes.

Essex County Council has just over 500 foster carers supporting vulnerable children across the county. Of those, 70 per cent are aged 55 and over, and 31 per cent are over the age of 60.

Councillor Beverley Egan, cabinet member for children’s services and early years, said: “With the current fostering workforce approaching retirement age, there is a significant risk of losing more foster carers than we are able to recruit.

“This Foster Care Fortnight, we’re reminding Essex residents that fostering is open to everyone, of all ages, with flexible options to suit working families, retired carers, and those with their own children still at home.”

Marie’s story:

Marie Bullock, 54, and her husband David, 59, have been fostering for five years while raising their four sons at home.

David and Marie Bullock

Marie said: “Every child deserves to have a happy childhood, and we wanted to give children in care some of what our children had.

“Our four boys have been brilliant throughout our five years of fostering. Our eldest is now 27 and goes to university, our 24-year-old works and lives at home, and our two younger sons live at home and go to school. They all understand why we foster, and they are happy for us to be able to support children in care.

“Our youngest son, who is nine, particularly enjoys having children here to interact with and build solid friendships.

“Fostering has been so rewarding. It’s a very busy household, and it’s lovely to see the children come to us and develop. We’ve given them experiences that they’ve never had before like going to a zoo, going on a train, or even sitting around a dinner table and eating a meal as a family.

“The various fostering options and flexibility means we can fit it around our children at home. We plan lots of activities for the children and it’s a pleasure to have them stay, whether for a weekend or a couple of weeks. There are different types of fostering to suit every household, and Essex County Council are always on hand to support the whole family.”

Corinne’s story:

Corinne Warren, 41, also began fostering last year, making the decision to welcome foster children into her home alongside her three young children, aged 13, 10 and 6.

Corinne said: “Before fostering, I was a paediatric nurse and mental health nurse where I got to meet families from all walks of life, and I met lots of foster carers which really encouraged me to do the same – I wanted to help make a difference. When my youngest started school full-time, my heart was really set on fostering; the timing felt right.

Corrine Warren and family

“My partner Carl and I spoke to the children about what fostering means and if they would be happy to welcome another child into our home. They were all on-board and excited; we wouldn’t have fostered if they weren’t happy with the idea.

“We have a busy house, and the children have an active schedule of after-school clubs, so when we applied for fostering, we were really open about what would work best for us. Throughout the application process we never felt pressured – it was completely up to us.

“We went into fostering holding zero judgement on anyone with children in care. I’ve not walked a day in anyone else’s shoes, and you never know what someone may be going through. What’s important is that children in care have a stable home environment where they can grow and thrive.

“If you’re thinking of fostering, you’ve just got to make that first phone call and start the process. Having our own children at home hasn’t been a barrier at all; it’s been great to show our children what fostering is and how it’s a positive way of life for them now.”

Celebrity comedian Kiri Pritchard-McLean, aged 37, has also recently opened up about her experience as a younger foster carer. The Have I Got News For You and QI star will be appearing at the Chelmsford Theatre on Saturday June 15 as part of a national tour. Essex County Council will be handing out information about fostering and speaking with anyone interested in applying.

Everyone is welcome to learn more about fostering and how it could fit into their lifestyle. Look out for Essex County Council’s fostering information event on Wednesday May 15 at:

  • Chelmsford John Lewis, 11am-1pm
  • Chelmer information stand, 11am-1.30pm
  • County Hall Atrium, 11am-2pm

Visit www.essex.gov.uk/foster or call 0800 801 530 to find out more.

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