While thousands of parents and guardians were waving off their young adults to University last month, the moment was particularly heart-warming for Debbie Finch who faced the same milestone in her foster daughter Lauren’s life.
Essex County Council is today urging more people like Debbie to consider becoming foster carers. By providing a safe and nurturing environment, Essex foster carers are enabling young people to reach their full potential. For some, that may be giving them stability to concentrate on their studies, and for others, it can be instilling confidence in them to pursue their own happiness.
Debbie from Basildon, who has been fostering for 21 years, credit’s her life experience, her family’s support, and the training by Essex County Council to helping her foster children who have had a traumatic start in life, developing them into young adults. Together they helped them to reach their potential and transform their lives.
Debbie says: “Children in care can often be traumatised, needing a lot of emotional and mental support so that they can learn to trust in people and feel cared for. Many worry about stability and security, at least to begin with. You can't change their past, or the trauma’s they’ve been through, but you can help them, or support them, in changing their future.”
One of Debbie’s foster children, Lauren, has been with her for 10 years. Debbie showed Lauren that they cared for her, and they worked to build a trusting relationship. Now Lauren is off to University to study social work to help young people who are in the care system.
Lauren says: “I’ve been in foster care for 12 years, since I was six years’ old, and it wasn’t until I came to Debbie, that my life started to get better. Debbie is just so passionate and committed to fostering - she understood me straight away and took a genuine interest in my life.
“I have grown up with Debbie and her family. She helped me accept and grieve the loss of my mum, and we have been through secondary school and college together. Even though there have been challenges, she has completely shaped my life and helped me get to where I want to go.
“Debbie has also helped prepare me for university life, by teaching me general life skills, such as cooking and cleaning, but I’m touched that they will be keeping my bedroom so I can come back home to them on the weekends.
“Fostering is not just a career. It’s a lifestyle choice and it can change your foster child’s life so much if you have the passion and love to give.”
Foster carers can be single, married, from a same-sex family or retired. There is also 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 offers high-quality bespoke local training to all foster carers and provides ongoing support.
Cllr Beverley Egan, Cabinet Member for Children Services and Early Years said: “Our foster carers help build better, brighter futures for hundreds of children across Essex every year. We desperately need more people, like Debbie, to foster on a full and part-time basis for either short or long-term placements. We have a particular need for foster carers who can support older children over age 10 and children with disabilities”.
Debbie really wants to urge people in Essex who are thinking of fostering to just go for it.
“You will not regret fostering. Of course, it may be hard and challenging, but I go to bed knowing I’m helping children who need support and it’s just so rewarding.
“My only regret is that I didn’t start fostering sooner, but there is no age barrier to fostering. All you need to foster is to be 21 years old, have a spare bedroom and love in your heart to help these children.
“Fostering has 100% changed all our lives for the better. We’re better people because of fostering as it’s made us more patient and appreciate each other a lot more.”