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“Never underestimate the impact you might have on a young person, even if you’re only with them for a short period of time”

Ruth with her children

Tuesday 1 September 2020

The year 2020 has been regarded by many as the “great re-set” as the coronavirus pandemic prompted us to re-evaluate our lives and enabled us to spend more time with family.

For Ruth Jenkinson from near Great Dunmow, it gave her more time to continue providing respite care and emergency placements, something which she would normally balance with running her own busy photography business and training with her local rowing club.

This type of fostering fits into my life and has enhanced it greatly. It gives me the flexibility to care for foster children depending on my workload at the time. I guess that would be my biggest bit of advice if you decide to foster. Be clear with Social Services on exactly what you can offer, and they will match you with the right type of foster care, resulting in the most joyous experience”.

Ruth, aged 60, has been fostering for 6 years now on her own. In that time has welcomed approximately 20 young people into her home. Most have been teenagers, but she has also cared for siblings aged 2 and 3. Ruth has two boys and a girl of her own, aged 27, 25 and 23, who all now have their own homes. She also has a cat called Buttons, who she credits for helping to break the ice when new foster children come to stay.

The most rewarding thing is when a child starts to interact with you, after not being able to

talk to you or even look at you. They go from being quite agitated to asking you questions and choosing to sit with you. You see them starting to relax and being calm again. I guess it's just nice for them to be physically away from the stress, giving them time to breathe and feel safe. A break can do wonders for their wellbeing with that moment of respite giving them renewed fortitude”.

As lockdown eases, Essex County Council are stepping up their calls for more foster carers to help transform the lives of young people across the county.

Foster carers can be single, like Ruth, married, from a same-sex family or retired. There is an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers with many going on to make long-term friendships. Essex County Council offer high-quality bespoke local training to all foster carers and provide ongoing support.

Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said: “Our foster carers help build better, brighter futures for hundreds of children across Essex every year. In 2020, 500 children are predicted to come into care, so Essex County Council needs your help. We desperately need more people, like Ruth, to foster on a full and part-time basis for either short or long-term placements”.

When Ruth was younger, she vividly remembers a lady down her street who used to invite her in just for a chat. Ruth feels that left a lasting impression and inspired her to sign up for fostering.

“Never underestimate the impact you might have on a young person, even if you’re only with them for a short period of time. You may feel like you’re doing nothing but giving them time. That’s something they might not have experienced before though and they may treasure that time with you”.

Join an informal online event to find out more or give us a call on 0800 801 530.