Over the past year, there has been much concern across the UK about the impact of Covid on children’s physical and mental wellbeing. They have had disrupted routines, time away from school and missed opportunities to physically interact with friends due to the pandemic. Although only a temporary pause in childhood experiences, there is much concern over the long-lasting impact this period of increased anxiety may have on our young people. It has also highlighted the tragic fact that many children go hungry, unless fed at school.
This Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from 10 - 23 May, Essex County Council are seeking to highlight how missing out on aspects of childhood can often be a sustained normality for many children arriving into care. They also want to highlight the life changing difference foster carers are making in giving children a second chance at the childhood they have been deprived of and helping them to recover from the trauma experienced.
Essex County Council’s Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Barbara Canepa said: “Childhood should be a time of nurturing and feeling safe to play, learn, socialise and explore – a pivotal point which lays the foundation for the adult they become. Playing and feeling secure enough to behave like a child is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of young people.
“Sadly, it’s quite common for many foster children to have missed out on large parts of their childhood through trauma and neglect, many have also played a parenting role to their younger siblings and parents”.
Barbara added: “Foster carers can help a child heal from their trauma by giving them a second chance at childhood. Our role is to give them the knowledge, support and tools to do so”.
Foster carers, like Alison (54) and Debbie (56), from North Weald Bassett near Epping in Essex, who have been fostering for six years. They currently have two brothers aged 12 and 9 in their care.
The couple recognise that their eldest foster child, in particular, lost out on a large part of his childhood as he took on the role of both mother and father at a young age. He would routinely look after his younger brother; going to the shops to buy food, cooking them dinner, and making sure he got ready for school.
Alison and Debbie are keen to provide their foster children with nurturing therapeutic care so that they can focus on being a child again.
Alison said: “Fostering isn’t about ‘saving' a young person – it's about helping a young person recover from their past traumas and be the best they can be through stability, consistency, and love. All the things a child deserves from a parent.
“We will hopefully help them to develop the self-confidence, ability, and life skills they will need to become the successful adults they deserve to be”.
Due to the impact of Coronavirus the fostering service has seen a 30% reduction in approved foster carers this year. Essex County Council is therefore urging more people like Alison and Debbie to support vulnerable children by becoming a foster carer.
This Foster Care Fortnight Alison and Debbie are recommending that anyone thinking about fostering children or young people should just pick up the phone and enquire.
Debbie said, “Fostering really has been the best decision we ever made as a couple and it’s totally changed our lives together for the better.
“We have come to realise that our foster children don’t want expensive toys or grand gestures – it’s the small and simple things in life that they want and need. Like taking them to the beach for the first time or teaching them to ride a bike – all firsts for the young boys we care for. Sadly, it has also meant reassuring them that they won’t go hungry, which is so sad as no child should be without such a basic need”.
Debbie added: “The difference you can make to a young person, just by treating them as part of your family, is huge.
“And that’s very much how we see our foster children – a part of our family. There is no greater reward than seeing them develop into happy young people who are enjoying their childhood!”
Join an online event to find out more or give the team a call 0800 801 530.
Read Debbie and Alison's blog to hear how they are giving children a second chance at childhood and transforming their lives.