Thursday, 27 May 2010

30 Years of Foster Care

This year BAAF celebrates its 30th anniversary. As we are in the middle of Foster Care Fortnight it seemed a good time to look at how foster care has changed over the years.

David Holmes, Chief Executive, BAAF

Around the time that BAAF was ‘born’ there was a change in the social landscape. A growing belief that most children do best in a family setting drove forward a policy of moving children out of residential homes and into foster care placements. To give you a rough idea of how things have changed, in the late 70s around a third of children were in foster homes. Nowadays it’s well over two-thirds.

The early 80s also saw the ‘professionalisation’ of foster care. National training programmes for foster carers were introduced, as well as an increase in specialist schemes to help children with complex needs. This resulted in different types of people coming forward as prospective foster carers. Many had existing childcare experience, perhaps with grown up children; or were professionals working in child care professions. Few were married couples with young, dependent children. The professionalisation of foster care remains a key theme of Foster Care Fortnight and other campaigns.

By the mid 90s it was becoming clear that there were insufficient numbers of foster carers to allow the fostering service to fulfill the role of ‘placement of choice’. It is estimated that there could be a shortage of at least 10,000 foster carers across the UK. The drive to recruit people with the right skills remains as prominent now as it did then. This month’s campaign from The Fostering Network will be asking if you have the right skills to become a foster carer.

Every day we hear about children whose lives have been turned around since coming into foster care. Of course there are still problems that need to be addressed, but BAAF strongly believes in supporting this invaluable workforce, and recognising the important contribution to the lives of our most vulnerable children.

Fostering phone-in for Muslim Community

As part of Foster Care Fortnight, St Christophers's Fostering has organised a radio phone-in for members of the Muslim community to find out more about foster care.

There is a growing need for Muslim foster carers to look after children and asylum seekers, particularly from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Bangladesh.

St Christopher’s Fostering, a registered charity, aims to grow its Muslim carer base to help plug this gap and is highlighting the need for more Muslim Carers during Fostercare Fortnight with a live call-in on Panjab Radio (Sky0103/DAB).

The call-in aims to recruit Muslim carers, particularly in the Greater London area but also aims to answer some of the common concerns and misconceptions surrounding fostering and Islam. The show takes place between 3 and 4pm on Tuesday 1st June.

Three of our Muslim carers will take to the microphone offering a question and response session for listeners to call in and ask questions in English, Urdu and Punjabi. One of whom, Shahida, commented:

“Some Muslims may not know for example, that the Prophet Mohammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)) was given to another family to be looked after by them until the age of two. It was considered that the desert air was better for children’s well being and was also a tradition in the tribe to give their children away for a few years for a ‘better’ way of life. The Prophet Mohammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) also fostered an orphan boy named Zaid.”

Javaid, another of our Muslim carer’s said:

“In Islam it says that if anyone needs you and you can help them, then you should. When we realised that we could do this, we had absolutely no doubts in wanting to foster, if there is anything we could do to help, we have and always will.”

The message we want to convey is that fostering is a form of charity or Al Zakat and also to deal with the differences between fostering and adoption.

For more information call free on 0800 234 6282, see OR call Panjab Radio between 3.30pm and 4pm on Tuesday June 1st on 0208 848 7979

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

My memories of being fostered

David shares his memories and positive experience of being fostered back in the 1960's

Hello. My name is David. I’m 46 years old and proud to consider myself a member of the same family which fostered me in 1965. I have two younger foster brothers and a foster sister who grew up with me and who treat me as their own.

The truth is that I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was fostered. Now I come to think of it, I also can’t remember a time when there wasn’t at least one other foster child staying with the family besides me. I can often remember my father coming home from work to a new face at the supper table. My (foster) mother is now in her 70’s and only just thinking about retiring after positively touching the lives of well over 80 children. The constant flow of photographs, letters and postcards from former foster children are a testament to her dedication, and their affection for her.

I was fostered rather than adopted because I was born with congenital heart problems, which in those days meant that I could not be released for adoption. I therefore spent the first year of my life with (Dr) Barnardo’s in Barkingside, Essex before a young clergyman and his wife found me simply too irresistible – more fool them.

For me the secret of successful fostering (or adoption) is the integration of a child into another family, allowing that child to fully participate in family life, whilst recognising the differences and issues that inevitably surface from time to time. I can remember being offered adoption when I was about twelve, but declining it. Looking back, the fact that I felt confident enough to decline can only be attributed to the sense of security I felt – I already belonged so why change?

Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for me or my foster family. Like most people who have been fostered or adopted, I have experienced periods of self-doubt - the ‘why?’, ‘what if’ and ‘who am I?’ questions popping into my head on many occasions and often at the most unexpected times. Anyone looking to foster or adopt must expect these and be prepared for the episodes of insecurity. They are natural, they will happen, but with careful handling they will also pass.

Would I recommend becoming an adoptive or foster parent to anyone considering it? – Well, I’m proud to have been fostered and I love my family. You could have that effect on someone too, so go for it!

For more stories about fostering visit our Be My Parent site.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Adoption mum reaches final of the Sun's Wondermum competition

Adoption mum, Lorraine Cridge, has reached the final of The Sun's Wondermum competition. With her husband Derek, Lorraine has adopted four children with Downs Syndrome. This week Lorraine and her family’s visit to London for the final – including being a guest at No. 10!

Arrived home hot and tired at 2.30pm, first load of dirty washing in the machine by 2.45 – that’s it then! My fifteen minutes of fame is definitely over and it’s back to normality.

But what a fantastic time we’ve had over the past couple of days attending the final of the Sun/Asda Wondermum 2010 competition. It started just a few weeks ago when I got a phone call out of the blue to say that I had been chosen as one of the six finalists in this year’s contest. After I picked myself up from the floor, I rushed round the house into all the girls’ rooms in a flurry of excitement to tell them the good news – a trip to London always causes terrific excitement in our house!

The day before we were due to travel, another big surprise – the Wondermums had all been invited to morning coffee at 10 Downing Street with Samantha Cameron as her first official engagement as the new PM’s wife. So, a quick rearrangement of travel plans and I found myself on a very early morning train to arrive in London in time.

Well, I always consider myself to be quite unimpressed by celebrity (or notoriety) but I must say that I felt a real thrill being escorted through the barriers into Downing Street, and even more exciting was walking through the front door like some kind of important person! Samantha Cameron was lovely! Slight disappointment – the biscuits were common or garden teatime assortment, but then I suppose I would rather that the Government spent my taxes on something more worthwhile than chocolate hobnobs! I thoroughly enjoyed the ensuing tour around number 10 and got a real sense of the history of our country walking up the grand staircase flanked by the portraits of every Prime Minister who has ever served.

Time to catch up with the rest of the family who had travelled on a later train. After a short respite for a cup of tea and a quick lie-down, it was on to the London Eye – fantastic experience! Champagne and nibbles in a private pod on the most beautiful sunny afternoon so far this year.

The next day was the “big day” – a make up artist and a hairdresser to my room after breakfast in bed. Could I get used to this? Better not! The excitement gathered in the lobby until it was time to set off for Claridges. So proud of my lovely family, my girls looked absolutely beautiful and it was a privilege and a great pleasure to walk through Claridge’s lobby escorted by them all. Lucy worked the room like a pro – introducing herself to everyone, just in case they were an unrecognised “celeb”! Carlyn and Rose got fed up of waiting for lunch and both took their shoes off and went for a lie down on the two sofas outside the ballroom – bet Claridge’s have never seen that before!

Lunch was as you would expect from such a famous hotel and the twins knocked back the vino in a very unladylike manner! The actual awards ceremony was very emotional for all of us finalists, but once the winner is announced the tension dies down and everyone relaxes and enjoys themselves. Had my photo taken with Sarah Ferguson, a delightful lady with a wicked sense of humour, but the star of the day for me was Gail Porter who was so kind and encouraging to the girls I would have liked to bring her home with me and adopt her too!

So then it’s nearly over, just a private trip with my family to see the musical “Wicked” – a truly remarkable ending to a wonderful couple of days. I may not have won, but I have memories that will last a lifetime, and most importantly I have been able to publicly tell everyone that adopting my daughters is the best thing that ever happened to me (and him indoors!) and that they have made my life so blessed and joyful.

Previous Wondermum winners have included foster mum, Avril Head, also featured on this blog.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Ealing positively welcomes gay and lesbian foster carers

During Fostercare Fortnight, Ealing Council are launching the Pink Campaign. The campaign targets members of the gay and lesbian prospective foster carers.

The campaign comes as a result of a tremendous amount of work and consultation across a number of organisations, groups and individuals in the gay and lesbian community. The campaign has so far it has been very well received.

The council are actively developing their services to welcome to the gay community. Their aim is to recruit as widely as possible so they have a diverse range of foster carers to meet the needs of all the children and young people in their care.

Ealing are keen to get the message across to the communities that what’s important is what families can offer to a child or sibling group. With this in mind the council are launching their ‘Pink Campaign’ at a special event for members of of the gay and lesbian community at Ealing Town Hall at 6.30pm on Tuesday 25th May 2010. There will be drinks and nibbles, followed by a presentation, open panel and networking. Guests will have the opportunity to meet social workers and share in the experiencethe of other carers.

The event is also open to members of the gay and lesbian community who may be interested in adoption.

For further information, please call freephone 0800 731 6550

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

From fostering to adoption

Avril and Ron have gone from fostering to adoption with a two of their children. They also have three birth children - here's a snap shot of their experiences.

Ron and I started fostering over 25 years ago. We started as respite carers with children with disabilities and soon realised that we and our family of 3 birth children were ‘made’ to foster!

We had many happy years taking in children for all different sorts of reasons. We often had large families in crisis situations and Mums visiting and contact arrangements - then Social workers visiting and meetings going on. The house was always buzzing with activity!

We frequently had young babies and loved caring for them, stimulating them and encouraging young Mums to share the delights of development and taking responsibility. Many people have said to us over the years – “I would do that but I could not bear to give them up”. But that has been the best part for us!
We have had the privilege of caring for that child, helping them and moving them on to a happy secure future whether with birth parents or onto adoption.

Adoption is our favourite though! Seeing a childless couple come through our door and introduce them to their child is a unique experience! It is sad and we miss them – but we would have a very full house if we did not move them on!

Having said that we have adopted two of our fostered children! Simon was here from 7 months old . Sadly his adoption plans went awry. He had had enough knocks and we were eventually able to adopt him when he was 7. He has certainly not been easy to look after, but we have loved him - no matter what. We are convinced he will get there in the end!

Dominic came as a baby too, but with many disabilities, He has full blown FAS, but is an adorable child who meets each challenge in life with huge courage and a love of life that is truly amazing. We now foster children with disabilities because we can cope with all the demands and have a long term placement of a child with cerebral palsy.
These children are amazing and although the care is complicated and sometimes challenging it is very fulfilling work and we have somehow accomplished a way of adapting our family life into a ‘professional’ but caring environment for our children to reach their full potential - and it is such fun!

For more information visit the fostering section of the BAAF website or read more fostering stories on the Be My Parent website

Monday, 17 May 2010

Foster care - transforming lives

As part of Fostercare Fortnight we'll be bringing you some real voices of people involved in foster care. First off is Jim Bond, an experienced foster carer and Chair of the Fostering Network.

"One night, a few years ago, the 14-year-old boy I had been fostering for four months went missing. He had thrown all the typical teenage stuff at me: staying out late, refusing to clean or tidy his room, leaving a mess everywhere. But that night he just didn’t come home.

"I managed to track him down the next morning and waited in a car park while he decided whether he wanted to come back with me. In the end he got in the car. Some people might have shouted, or driven off in frustration, to assert their power. I just said ‘OK, don’t do it again’. He was gobsmacked that I didn’t behave in the way he expected.

"Patience is one of the key qualities I need as a foster carer. There is now an expectation that foster carers will transform a child’s life - children are coming into care with a range of increasingly complex needs and foster carers need to be child care experts to deal with the challenges this brings. I have to be able to listen and not be judgemental, and to communicate both with children and the other professionals working with them. One of the most important qualities I need is a sense of humour – being able to see the funny side takes the edge off situations that can be difficult to deal with. Sometimes I think that if you didn’t laugh, you’d cry.

"But while fostering can be very challenging it is also extremely rewarding. A few weeks after the boy went missing it was Mothers’ Day and he had been out to buy me a card, which read ‘For you, mother’ on the front. He had crossed out the word ‘mother’ with blue felt tip and replaced it with ‘Jim’. There aren’t many rewards greater than knowing that you are not only doing your job as a foster carer but that someone thinks you’re a good mum too!

"More foster carers are urgently needed. There is a shortage of 10,000 across the UK and there are more children coming into care now, which is putting huge pressure on the system. There are many different types of fostering which means that if you feel you have the skills and qualities needed, you should be able to find something that suits you. I started off offering respite care to a teenage boy, looking after him a couple of times a month, and this turned into a permanent arrangement. Since then I have fostered over 80 children, including children who have come on an emergency or short term basis, as well as at least 15 children who have been here longer term, for between one and four years.

"I left behind a career in teaching and youth work to become a full time foster carer, and it’s the best decision I could have made."

To find out more about fostering visit You can also find information at Alternatively ring 0800 040 7675.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Welcome our adoption and fostering blog

I am delighted to bring you the inaugural post of our new adoption and fostering blog. Over the forthcoming months we hope to keep you up-to-date with changes in the adoption and fostering sector, as well as news about campaigns, services and events from BAAF. You will also be hearing from adopters, foster carers and adopted people.

Adoption and fostering are such important services for children. We hope that this blog will encourage you to find out more about these services and even to consider whether you could be an adopter or foster carer.

The blog will also draw attention to the big issues of the day in adoption and fostering. One new issue is the impact of social networking on adoption and fostering. We are hearing of increasing concerns from adopters, foster carers and social workers about websites such as Facebook being used to facilitate instant contact between adopted and fostered children and their birth parents and other relatives. BAAF is responding to this new development by publishing guidance for adopters, carers and social workers on contact and social networking. We are also holding a major national conference on contact and social networking on 24 June. You can reserve your place at this vital conference now by booking through our website.

In celebration of Foster Care Fortnight this month we will be celebrating the role of foster carers, as well as some voices of young people in care. For more information on the campaign visit The Fostering Network’s website.

Please do subscribe to this blog to make sure you keep up to date on all the news and views. And don’t forget to share your thoughts with us in the comments section. You can also join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. If you need advice about adoption and fostering, visit our website or call our advice line.

David Holmes
Chief Executive
British Association for Adoption & Fostering

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