Becoming part of a foster family can be life-changing for a young person in care and we need more local families to make this a reality for more young people.
Wokingham Borough Council foster carers Matt and Natasha Lee have grown as people since starting in the role last year. They are one of 64 foster families in the borough but more than 10 are urgently needed, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Matt and Natasha balance fostering alongside their commitment to their three sons. It has had its challenging times but the pair describe it as a joyous experience.
“Fostering is something that we had talked about for many years,” they said. “We knew the time would have to be right to make it work for everyone, so started our fostering journey in January 2019 and haven’t looked back since. Within a few days of being approved as foster carers, we had a young boy placed with us for a few weeks of respite care and shortly after this, had siblings of seven and two years of age placed in our care.
“After six months with us now, it would be a lie to say that it’s all been plain sailing or easy, but we never expected it to be. Fostering throws up challenges the same as anything in life and at times can be emotionally tiring, but how the whole extended family have dealt with those challenges and overcome them gives the most positive feeling imaginable.”
The experience has seen growth not only for the young people in their care, but also Matt and Natasha’s own children. “The development we’ve seen with the children, including our own, in all respects is the greatest achievement of all and is something we’re all proud to be part of,” they added. “We had imagined fostering to be many things and, over a year down the line, are so glad we took that step to make a difference to someone’s life.”
With the annual national Foster Care Fortnight (11 to 24 May) still going ahead during the Coronavirus pandemic the borough council wants to reach out to would-be foster carers for children including teenagers, siblings, and asylum seekers and children with disabilities who desperately need foster carers in the borough. It is very probable that more children will come into care and require foster homes as a consequence of COVID-19.
The council always looks for homes for the 100 plus children and young people currently in care with its own council carers first. Additional financial assistance in the form of council tax exemption is offered as part of a wide range of benefits and incentives.
Regardless of culture, background, sexual orientation and whether you are a homeowner or tenant, if you have a spare room, are aged 21 and over with life experience, live within twenty miles of the borough and have time for a child, you could foster. What matters most, is that you are the right family or person for our children.
As a foster carer, the council offers attractive remuneration packages, council tax exemption, excellent training including a specialist therapeutic programme, as well as one-to-one and out-of-hours support. Fees increase with experience often resulting in the equivalent of a reasonable salary, which could provide a complete change of career. For example, an experienced foster carer at Level 2, who cares for two children all year, could earn more than £25,000 p.a. excluding allowances for the child.
“Becoming a foster carer is open to a broad range of people and what’s most important is being able to provide a safe and loving home for the young people in our care,” said Cllr UllaKarin Clark, executive member for children’s services. “Get in touch with our team to find out about the possibilities of starting the journey to become a brilliant foster family while getting paid as well as access to a host of other benefits and training.”
During Foster Care Fortnight, the council is holding a drop-in virtual information event on Wednesday May 20 between 6pm and 8pm. Foster carers will share their experiences and discuss the positive life changes created for the children and young people involved.
Anyone interested is invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make arrangements. The application process is friendly, supportive and quicker than you might think. The council is still actively recruiting, continuing with new fostering enquiries and applications by phone calls and virtual visits.