Over the last two years, families across the country have been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic.
With people not able to see loved ones, schools being closed and lines of support difficult to access, communities across Wales have found other ways to support one another during these most testing of times. This is even truer for fostering families.
Many have used this difficult period as an opportunity to create an altogether more positive ‘new normal’ - not only in their lives but in the lives of local children. According to Foster Wales, over 350 families in Wales started fostering with their local authority during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This Foster Care Fortnight (9-22 May) Foster Wales wants to celebrate the difference that foster carers have made to children’s lives in Carmarthenshire. From foster carers who have shown dedication over many years to those just starting their fostering journey to help give children a better future.
Foster Care Fortnight is the UK’s biggest foster care awareness raising campaign, delivered by leading fostering charity, The Fostering Network. This year’s theme is 'fostering communities' and the campaign will focus on the commitment, passion and dedication of foster carers.
It hopes to shine a light on the many ways people in the fostering community have supported each other during the Covid-19 pandemic – and to highlight the need for more dedicated foster carers.
Stefan Smith, Head of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Children and Families Service acknowledges the importance of local authority foster carers and expresses his thanks or their dedication and hard work:
Foster Care Fortnight 2022 is upon us and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our local authority foster carers for their opening their homes to Carmarthenshire children who, for a variety of reasons, can’t be with their own family at this time.”
Keeping children in their local communities and schools is hugely important as it enables them to maintain vital bonds with friends, family, and school staff. The wider community that supports our foster cares - neighbours, schools, sports clubs, - also help maintain their sense of identity. I would encourage more people in Carmarthenshire to find out more about fostering and how it can enrich their lives and help build better futures for local children”.
Foster Wales Carmarthenshire is one of 22 local authority teams in Wales, working together as Foster Wales, a national network of not-for-profit fostering services.
Foster Wales wants to encourage more people to become foster carers for their local authority so that children can remain in their local area, close to their friends and family and remain in their schools. This can help children and young people retain their sense of identity during an otherwise turbulent time.
Alastair Cope, Head of Foster Wales, the national network of local authority fostering services said:
Most people don't realise that it's your local authority, your local council, who take care of children when their family are experiencing difficulties or when children are living with abusive and neglectful situations, and it’s your local authority who finds them a safe place and is responsible for them.
There is a wealth of knowledge in the Foster Wales local authority fostering team and dedicated social workers who all work together with local families and local schools to build better futures for local children.
By fostering locally, you are helping children to stay in their community, with the surroundings, accent, school, language, friends and activities they know. It keeps them connected, builds stability and confidence.
We'd encourage people not just to foster, but to foster with their local authority, which is part of Foster Wales, a not-for-profit organisation.”
Jo, a peer mentor in Carmarthenshire, has been fostering for seven years with the support of her husband and their two daughters. She provides support and advice to fellow foster carers who regularly say how much they enjoy fostering and how rewarding it is. Jo said:
I have cared for a wide range of children and young people aged 0-18 as part of my fostering journey. I am still in touch with many of them. Welcoming children into our family and home and seeing them develop in a positive way on a daily basis is so rewarding. I would encourage others to open their hearts and homes to local children in need of care."
Two recently approved foster carers that Jo supports have commented on how they are "thoroughly enjoying fostering", "loving it” and “reaping the rewards of a the therapeutic approach to caring for children that her supervising social worker has recommended”.