The Coronavirus crisis has encouraged many people to think about the future and focused their thoughts on how they can help those outside of their immediate family.
During Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from 11-24 May, foster carer Fran Barzoukas from Basildon is urging people to think about whether fostering could be a life-changing opportunity for their own future.
“Being a foster parent has very much enriched my life for the better. It’s not always easy, but l wouldn’t change it for one minute. You often want to change the world but when you foster a child you often end up changing their world. And your own”.
Over the last thirty years Fran, aged 65, has fostered children and young people of all ages on her own, ranging from new-born babies to teenagers. She went from providing short-term and respite care to long term foster care.
Fran currently fosters two girls aged 8 and 18.
“The remainder of my foster and biological children are grown up now and have moved out of the family home, but we all stay in contact. Many have been bridesmaids for each other at their weddings! It’s so heart-warming to see the unique bond they have. There is no distinction as we’re all one family”.
In 2020, up to 500 children in Essex are expected to come into foster care and Essex County Council is urging more foster carers, like Fran, to help transform their lives.
Foster Care Fortnight highlights the importance of foster carers’ work. More foster carers are needed in Essex on a full and part-time basis for either short or long-term placements, with Essex County Council offering high-quality bespoke local training.
Foster carers can be single like Fran, married, from a same-sex family or retired and there is an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers. Many go on to make long-term friendships.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said: “While our county and the whole world responds to the devastating effects of Coronavirus, life goes on for children and parents in crisis across Essex.
A high proportion of the children who come into care are over the age of ten, so we desperately need foster carers like Fran to help with that age group”.
Fran has some words of advice on what to expect when fostering a new child or young person:
“Don’t be nervous as they are probably more nervous than you but do take time to listen and validate their concerns. It may be something they have not experienced before. It’s not all about the big gestures. It’s can be the subtle things, like having a routine and some home comforts, which make the difference”.
Fran is recommending that anyone thinking about fostering older children and young adults should just pick up the phone and enquire; they may be surprised at just how suitable they are and how much they get back in return.