A FOSTER parent has spoken out in support of a charity which helps teenagers living in care and has said that everyone should fight to ensure its survival.
Dianne Gash, 59, from Fratton, has been a foster parent for 25 years.
At the moment she has two young people living in her care, one is 17 years old and the other is eight. The teenager uses a service called Youth Options, a Hampshire-based charity which runs courses and projects for teenagers.
The project aims to build teenagers’ independence by taking them on days out and it provides foster parents with respite.
Dianne said: ‘This young person has going to Youth Options for a couple of years and the change has seen them go from being withdrawn to being happy and making friends. It’s a real difference.’
The scheme is funded by the Big Lottery, as well as by projects across Hampshire, and often needs funding from local authorities.
Dianne said: ‘I believe that even in these times of cutbacks, schemes such as Youth Options should not be cut back – in fact they should be extended.
‘I now have a young person who is not alone, who maintains relationships, can move on to employment and living alone without me fearing for their future. I want to wholeheartedly support the work that goes on. Everybody who uses it feels the same, it’s a really valued service.’
Youth Options CEO Mark Dixon said: ‘This is a fantastic story. Young people need opportunities and caring people around them, they need self-esteem put into them in the right way and by the right people. Once this has happened, we believe that they can achieve their maximum potential.’
Dianne also called for more people to come forward as foster parents.
She said: ‘It has its challenges but I wouldn’t do anything else. There aren’t enough of us to go around at the moment, that’s the unfortunate thing. We need more people, even short term would be fantastic. It’s so rewarding.’
For information go youthoptions.co.uk.