All about foster care in Kent
Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from May 13th-26th, is two weeks dedicated to a focus on fostering, what fostering entails and why it’s so essential. Of course, fostering is important every single day, and it makes a difference to many thousands of children – and their foster parents – throughout the year, but it is during this particular two weeks that foster agencies are very keen to ensure that everyone knows exactly what fostering is all about and why. If fostering is a suitable option for you and your family, it’s a hugely worthwhile thing to do.
Foster Care Fortnight is the UK’s biggest foster care awareness campaign and is organised by The Fostering Network, the UK’s leading fostering charity. The campaign has been going for almost 20 years and exists to showcase what it takes to be a foster carer: compassion, commitment and dedication.
Every year thousands of foster families are needed to care for children who would otherwise miss out on having a nurturing family environment to live in. It’s not just little children either; older children, sibling groups, disabled children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children need help too.
Fostering isn’t for everyone, but it is for a lot more people than many would think; it’s a way to really make a positive difference to the lives of children and it can make a big difference to your own life too. Offering children love, support and the security of a family unit is a gift that can never be rivalled. Here are some of the main reasons you might consider becoming a foster parent:
You can make a difference
It’s great to give to charity and to do good things for others generally, but if you’ve ever wondered if what you are doing is really making a difference, fostering could be for you. When you foster, you are making a profound and long-lasting change to a child’s life and you can see it happening in front of you. A shy, timid, perhaps even scared child who has never known a stable family life – the kind of life many of us take for granted – will flourish under your care.
By its very nature, fostering means that you will be looking after a variety of different children. Sometimes the placement will be for a few short weeks and other times it can be years, but it’s important to realise that it is not adoption and the hope is always there that the foster child will go back to a family member who is now in a position to look after them. This of course means that your household is ever-changing, which is hugely exciting. You will have the chance to meet lots of different children, changing their lives for the better along the way. And you’ll likely learn a lot through the process too.
A sense of community
When you foster a child you are not on your own. There will be a large support network to fall back on if and when you need it. They’re not just there for when things go wrong, or when you or your foster child may feel confused or overwhelmed, they’re there for the good times too, which will be plentiful.
You will be able to connect and chat with foster parents and families across the world, as well as much more locally through a range of online forums and in-person support schemes. There will be events arranged so that you can all meet up and ask any questions you may need answering, as well as simply get to know your fellow foster families.
You don’t need much to get started
Fostering is something that although never ‘easy’ can be fairly simple to get started with because you don’t need much to do it. All you need is a spare room for the child to sleep in, a driving licence, experience in looking after children (either your own or someone else’s), enthusiasm, flexibility and a sense of commitment.
Foster Agencies In Kent
There are a number of different agencies across Kent who you can talk to about fostering and sign up with when you are ready to take the next step. They will offer all the support and information you need, and will look after you just as you are looking after the children who need help.
- By The Bridge // www.bythebridge.co.uk // 0800 644 6230
By The Bridge is an independent fostering organisation. They offer full and complete training for foster parents who sign up with them, ensuring that they are utterly ready to take on their first foster child.
By The Bridge foster parents are a diverse range of people from every walk of life. This means that they offer a wide range of experience so that children of all backgrounds can be cared for with love and compassion. They are always looking for new foster parents and will talk you through the process, answering any questions you may have.
- Blue Sky Fostering // www.blueskyfostering.co.uk // 0845 450 3519
Set up in 2005, Blue Sky Fostering have made a difference to countless children’s lives. More than that, the staff are friendly and professional, so any potential foster parent will know that there is somewhere they can turn to for the very best help and advice. Blue Sky Fostering has been rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
- Channels and Choices Therapeutic Fostering // www.channelsandchoices.co.uk // 01304 361888
Channels and Choices is a fostering agency with a difference. They use an innovative therapeutic community to gather resources, skills and experience from each member, offering the children who are fostered more than one foster family. The adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is never truer than at Channels and Choices; the more people who are part of the overall team, the greater the level of support and the more that can be done for everyone involved. It’s a different way of doing things and it can be the ideal solution for foster parents who are nervous about going it alone.
- Anchor Foster Care // www.anchorfostercare.co.uk // 0800 328 3119
Anchor Foster Care is an independent, well established, not-for-profit fostering agency with teams operating throughout Kent and a head office in Medway. Anchor prides itself on the family feel that it offers both foster parents and children, and there is a strong level of support behind the scenes helping everyone find the ideal placement and ensuring that all is going well. The ethos behind Anchor is that the foster parents have the same vision as the company itself – looking at the child and young people first.
- Next Step Fostering // www.nextstepfostering.co.uk // 01795 521739
Next Step Fostering is a family run, independent agency that offers a specialist fostering service to local authorities. It was created due to the founder’s own experience of fostering; they wanted to create a service that enables children to be carefully and thoughtfully matched with the best foster carers out there. It is this careful matching that means most connections work out very well indeed. The needs of the children and the foster parents are at the heart of everything that happens at Next Step, and the support and guidance you might need are always on hand.
- Rainbow Fostering // www.rainbowfostering.co.uk // 0330 311 2845
Rainbow Fostering works closely with local authorities to provide safe, secure and happy homes for children who are in need, and they also offer plenty of guidance and support for foster parents too. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent but still have questions, speak to Rainbow Fostering – with many years of experience, they will have seen and heard it all, so it is always worth asking.
Rainbow makes the process a simple one. They know that when someone is keen to help and there are children who need that help, delaying the process will only lead to heartbreak.
Rainbow are particularly keen to hear from foster parents who would consider fostering a wide age range (children aged 0 to 18 years), or who would take on more than one child at a time whether siblings or not. They would also like to speak to those who have room for children and their parents, or who would be happy to foster unaccompanied asylum seekers.
- Sunbeam Fostering Agency // www.sunbeamfostering.com // 020 8799 0930
Sunbeam Fostering Agency is very proud of the standards they strive for and the support and training they offer. It is the needs of the children that drive them, pushing them to do the best they possibly can and this attitude is what they are looking for in both existing foster parents and potential foster parents who come to them.
Sunbeam has a team of professional, experienced staff who will undertake your assessment and support you throughout your fostering journey. This support is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year so you will never need to feel concerned or alone. You will also have a supervising social worker assigned to you in your local area.
- Lighthouse Fostering // www.lighthousefostering.co.uk // 01227 250096
Lighthouse Fostering has deliberately stayed small enough so that everyone who is involved can have a personal experience. It was started by foster carers and care leavers, who now work closely together to create the ideal environment for those who need the additional help that fostering will bring.