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Foster care is at a critical moment in Wirral – Director’s Blog

Simone White, Director of Children, Family & Education for Wirral Council blogs about the urgent need to encourage more people of all walks of life to become foster carers in Wirral.  Simone, who started her career as a social worker, working at every level in children’s social care in Wirral before moving on to work for national organisations including Ofsted as senior inspector and part of the Ofsted’s North West leadership team. As part of this role, she spent time as the national lead for fostering and adoption, eventually returning to Wirral as Assistant Director for Children and Young People in 2017 before becoming Director in early 2021.  Whilst she has had many interesting opportunities over her career her strongest passion remains wanting to get our services right to support children, young people, and families.

Nationally we are seeing rising numbers of children looked after and an ever-increasing need for individuals and families willing to support some of our most vulnerable children.  We’ve reached a critical moment in Wirral.  We have over 800 looked after children and we desperately need families and individuals willing to open their door and give them with a home.  Without a Wirral foster carer children may face the prospect of having to move away from their friends, school and everything that is familiar to them.  If we want to do the very best for our children, we have to understand what our children need, which is to be wanted, loved, and supported in Wirral.

Children don’t learn what it is to be part of a loving family from reading a book, they learn by experiencing it themselves and that is what our foster carers do for us.  When we don’t have foster carers to go to, we have to move our children outside of Wirral or into residential care and it can be harrowing for all concerned.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

It is hard enough when something bad happens in your family and you can’t stay at home but to be told you have to move somewhere else to be safe, that you can’t go to school or see your friends because we have to place you 50, 100 or in some cases 200 miles away is heart-breaking.  We wouldn’t like that as adults but as children that is incredibly difficult.

It makes an enormous difference to have foster carers in Wirral who come from all walks of life so that we can match children to the right homes.  We need an entire range of people with different skills, backgrounds and ages from large families to single carers, all are welcome.  The more carers we have the better we can match them with the right child making it a fantastic experience for you and the child or young person.  Some of our carers offer long term for ever home some just offer short breaks to support a child staying with their family. So, if you are interested, we can talk through how it would work for you.

People are understandably nervous about coming forward to foster and the pandemic hasn’t helped with that anxiety but what I am keen to stress is that if you are interested, support will be there for you.  If you are loving and caring, then you know what it is to be a foster carer.

Homes are precious places to all of us and I think there is a lot of myths as to who looked after children are.  At times, people think, “why are they looked after?” but it is not the child’s or often the family’s fault.  It can be a full range of things.  We have children in our care who have sadly lost their last parent during the pandemic and have become orphans as well as children who can’t be at home for their own safety.  The pandemic has made things harder and I’m also not going to pretend that we don’t have some children that come with difficulties, not all of our children are angels but hey, not all of my children were angels.  We are here to support you and the rewards as a parent are endless.

Children are open books, they learn, develop, and grow simply by being in a family and watching others around them interact.  You will watch them grow, change, and learn as they become the people you and they hope and dream they will be.  This is even more fulfilling when it is part of making a better future for a foster child.

Most of our foster carers are there because they really want to give a child a good start in life.

When we first talk to people about fostering you can see many are unsure.  I am writing this blog to encourage those who think they might be interested or good at fostering to come forward and speak to us.  Please be reassured you won’t make a phone call to express interest and then receive a child the next morning.  There is a supportive process, and we will make sure fostering is right for you.

The more children we can keep in Wirral, in foster care and well supported, the better chance we’ve got of those children growing up and being the adults that we want and need them to be in Wirral.

We all love the connection we have with community, friends, and family but how many people in our society don’t have that anymore and are feeling lonely.  Fostering has a huge support network who can be there for you on your journey.  It is highly rewarding.

We have a child to match every type of family and the more families we have, the more children we can provide a home to.  

Simone White, Director of Children and Young People for Wirral Council said: “Community has been more important than ever in the last 18 months but as we return to a more normal way of life, we’re in danger of turning our focus inwards again. There are people in Wirral who understand what being part of a community means and I would ask them to take a moment to think could you stay connected and is fostering the way you can achieve that? Why not open your heart to a child who absolutely needs a family now.”

There are children waiting to be fostered now, whether it be in short term respite, long term care, or somewhere to take a break while things become more settled.  We are desperate, in the best sense of the word, to encourage more people to become foster carers.

We need to recruit more foster carers than ever before.  If you or someone you know has room in their home and heart to foster visit: wirralfostering.org

Fostering is such a rewarding a life changing opportunity for both the child and the carer but don’t just take my word for it, see what some of our remarkable carers say wirralfostering.org/lets-talk-fostering