More than 150 foster carers and their families came together to share experiences and celebrate their work to support vulnerable children and young people across Stoke-on-Trent.
The event, held by Stoke-on-Trent City Council at Port Vale Football Club on Monday 25 November, was organised to recognise and thank foster carers for the valuable work they do. Foster carers enjoyed afternoon tea and heard messages of support from councillors and officers who manage the service.
Paul Austin and his wife Katerina have been fostering for 12 years. In that time they have provided long-term foster care for five young teenage boys to give them the support they need as they reach independence as an adult. They have also provided respite care for other families and have taken two short-term placements.
Paul said: “Fostering is about providing a template for how family life can be, to share that with young people so that when they go on to have their own children they know the environment to create for them. It is a hard job, but it is very rewarding. It is about giving a child life experience – experiences that we may have taken for granted in our own childhood – but which they have never had. It’s helping children have the chance to have a brighter future that all young people deserve.
“Bringing foster carers together for events like this is great. It can be challenging, and everyone wants to feel valued for their contribution. Events like this mean we can meet and talk to the council’s fostering team, we get to meet councillors and senior managers and to see the hard work that is being done in challenging circumstances.”
Councillor Dave Evans, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “This event is an important part of our package of support to those who provide foster care through the council. We really do value the work they do and this event is a way for us to show this. We are always on the look-out for new foster carers. There really is no typical foster carer, anyone can come forward and make a difference to a child’s life. You can be any age, any gender, be married, single or divorced, be from any religious or cultural background and of any sexual orientation. You can own your own home or rent. If you are over 21, have a spare bedroom and have energy, patience and understanding we would love to hear from you.”
Bob and Sue Yeo have fostered more than 80 children over the past 17 years. Bob is the chair of the Foster Carers Association and Sue chairs the association’s buddy service which has grown to 13 members since it launched three years ago – a service which brings foster carers together to share experiences and provides emotional support.
Bob said: “We have supported a lot of children from birth right up to the age of 18. A lot of our work now is with the parent and their child, so for example we have been supporting a young teenage mum straight from giving birth. It is another side to fostering that people may not realise is needed, but we need more people to come forward.
“We wouldn’t have been fostering for so long if it wasn’t so rewarding. There is great satisfaction in supporting children to improve their future. There is a misconception that children in care have low educational expectations. But that is wrong. If children are given the right experiences they can thrive. One young person we have supported has achieved 14 GCSEs at A-C grade, including three A* grades. We have also supported young people who are now successfully studying at university.
Sue added: “As an association we are making great strides working alongside the management at the council. Bob sits on the corporate parenting board and attends the West Midlands forum. Bob went through the care system as a child and I have worked in nursing. We need more foster carers to come forward to support children in the city.”
Find out more at www.stoke.gov.uk/fostering, call 01782 234 555.
An informal information evening will be taking place on Monday, 2 December at The Bridge Centre, Birches Head Lane, ST2 8DD between 6.30pm and 8pm. Anyone interested in fostering is invited to go along.