“What we get back from fostering our two boys is so much more rewarding than the work we put in. We can see the difference we are making to their lives, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.” Essex Couple speak about the importance of fostering children with disabilities.
Essex County Council are today urging more people who want to make a change in their life to consider fostering, and in turn, change the life of a young person.
Over the past few months, there has been much press speculation about ‘the big resignation’ and the work/life balance revolution. Many want to avoid long commutes and spending a lot of time away from their family.
Fostering is a great alternative with flexible fostering options available to suit different families, a competitive financial package, a wealth of support and training and ultimately the opportunity to make a difference in a young person’s life.
Essex County Council have been successfully matching carers with foster children for over 50 years and need to recruit more foster carers to keep up with the rising demand. There is a particular need for more Essex foster carers who can provide homes for children with disabilities.
Christina (Tina) Pirie has been fostering for eight years with her husband Austin. The couple, who are both in their early 50s, started fostering when Tina was made redundant, and she wanted a career change.
Their foster children have learning and physical disabilities and have been with them since they were aged 15 and 18.
Tina said, “We wanted to foster because we have always had a big family; my auntie was a foster carer, so I grew up with foster children, and my own children had friends at school who were foster children.
“My own daughter grew up with learning difficulties and seeing the struggles she went through at school drove our desire to specifically foster those with disabilities.
“When we were approached to care for our first young person, we knew we wanted to foster him, because we loved him from the first time we saw him.”
The two young people have stayed with Tina offering them stability through adolescence and into adulthood.
Tina continues, “We do get challenging behaviour, but it comes from frustration of not being able to communicate as they have the cognitive ability of a much younger child. Over the years we have got to know our boys and we have learnt to communicate in different ways and better understand their needs. Due to their disabilities, they were often misunderstood.”
Essex County Council provides high-quality, bespoke local training to all foster carers and ongoing support including Occupational Therapists. 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.
Tina added, “Essex County Council can also provide you with respite care for a short period of time to recharge your batteries. Our boys live with us full time and it’s important to occasionally to a break.”
Cllr Beverley Egan, Cabinet Member for Children’s 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. Last year, we doubled the fees for our foster carers. Families can now receive between £500 to £1,000 per week per child plus an allowance. This increase in fees expresses our gratitude and our commitment to attracting more local foster carers, like Tina, for local children with complex needs.
“There are a range of options available, from full-time foster care to fostering on a part-time basis or at weekends. Even the smallest amount of time can make the biggest difference to a child’s life.
“Our foster carers are single, married, from a same-sex family or retired. They have a varying range of experience from personal to professional and some of them have transferrable skills. Nobody should discount themselves if they feel they don’t have the right experience or a suitable home to accommodate a child with disabilities. Give our friendly team a call if you are unsure.”
Tina’s family said that their experiences fostering children with disabilities made them realise that they took so much for granted. As a family they now appreciate each other more.
“What we get back from fostering our two boys is so much more rewarding than the work we put in. We can see the difference we are making to their lives, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It can be hard at times, but it’s 100 times harder for them and they don’t ask for it, they just want a normal life. They’re part of our family, they are our sons, and everyone treats them like our family.
“Fostering is an amazing opportunity. All these children want is a life that they deserve. If you’re thinking about it then just go for it. These children are out of this world, they don’t ask for anything, they just need care and attention.”