Recent figures released by Essex County Council reveal that foster carers aged over 50 make up 69 per cent of the total number that are fostering through the council today.
In North Essex, 73 per cent of County Council carers who live there are over 50; empty nesters who are using their life experience to look after vulnerable children. Now the council is urging more people like Lorna Broadhead, from Colchester, to come forward.
Lorna, 52, has two daughters of her own, three grandchildren and lives with husband Tony. She has been fostering for 14 years after giving up a job in accounts and now specialises in looking after teenagers.
“We used to live in London and I’d always wanted to foster. When we moved to Colchester, we had a spare bedroom and I knew I would be leaving accounts to foster instead.”
She became a child minder and fostered alongside this: “Gradually, I stopped the child minding because fostering was overtaking, as planned.”
She started fostering children slightly younger than her own and as her children grew so did the age of the foster children.
Her daughters have long since left home, but her house is still full: “Now I prefer having teenagers – I like the interaction with them. I get a lot from it and they are great company. It’s nice to see them developing; growing in confidence.
“Each child is different. It can be hard, but it is very rewarding, too, seeing them blossom. It is nice being part of that.”
Currently, around 750 children are in foster care in Essex and this number has been increasing for the past two years.
In addition, the rate of children leaving care has slowed down, bringing into sharp focus the need to recruit more foster carers for children of all ages, siblings and children with disabilities.
Cllr McKinlay, Cabinet member for Children and Families, said: “The over 50s have a lot to offer children. It’s no surprise that such a large percentage of these valuable foster carers are in that age bracket as they have seen their children leave home and have the room. We need more people like them to contact us to find out more about making a difference to a child’s life.”
Foster carers are needed on a full and part-time basis for either short or long-term placements and they can be single, married, from a same sex family or retired.
Find out about some of the children you could help, call 0800 801 530, visit www.essexadoptionandfostering.co.uk/fostering to find out the dates of information events across the county.