“Fostering is a way of life - it’s never too late to start.”
Essex couple in their mid-60s urges residents to become foster carers, no matter their age.
While thousands of parents and guardians were waving off their young adults to university last month, the moment was particularly heart-warming for Ruth Archer and Geoff Stokes who faced the same milestone in their foster daughter’s life.
Essex County Council is today urging more people like Ruth and Geoff to consider becoming a foster carer. 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.
The couple from Rochford, who have been fostering for two years, credit their life experience to helping their own foster children who have had a traumatic start in life to develop into young adults, helping them to reach their potential and transform their lives.
Ruth says: “We teach by example, showing compassion and respect to each other as a couple and to our young person, so they take on those traits. We show them that we care for their safety and wellbeing.
“Foster carers really do provide stability for those children and young people, so they know they are looked after and cared for, and all the worry is taken away from them.
“These are the things we often take for granted, but they mean the world to these children.
“At times it is challenging, but seeing our young person develop, not just academically, but as a person, is worth it. Now they are off to university, and we couldn’t be prouder.”
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 at Essex County Council, said: “Our foster carers help build better, brighter futures for hundreds of children across Essex every year. We desperately need more people, like Ruth and Geoff, 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”.
Ruth and Geoff, who are in their mid-Sixties, initially discounted themselves from fostering because they did not have experience of raising their own children.
Ruth said: “We were also concerned that our age would be a barrier and that we were too old to start fostering. Speaking to Essex County Council about both concerns really put our minds at ease. We were thrilled to hear that you can foster at any age from 21 and you don’t necessarily need prior experience of raising children. All you need is love in your heart and a spare room.”
Ruth and Geoff’s only regret is not fostering sooner and really urge anyone thinking of fostering to just go for it.
“If you’ve got fostering in your mind, just go for it, you won’t regret it. We don’t see it as a job but more a way of life. We learn every day, either from our young person, or from the training.
“We’ve seen the difference it can make to young people and how we’ve helped shape their future.”