‘The children become a part of the family’: Foster Care Fortnight in Portsmouth

Foster carer Sally Parrack from Portchester who is giving her support to the recruitment campaign, Foster Care Fortnight .'Picture Ian Hargreaves  (150855-4
Foster carer Sally Parrack from Portchester who is giving her support to the recruitment campaign, Foster Care Fortnight .'Picture Ian Hargreaves (150855-4
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Foster Care Fortnight, which started this week, aims to get more people to consider becoming foster carers. STUART ANDERSON spoke with foster carers and a young man who has been through the foster-care system about their experiences.

I just love living here. If more people do foster care then they can love it too.’

It gives the children a second chance.

Diane Gash

The words spoken by a little girl in Sally Parrack’s care were music to her ears.

Sally, 51, of Portchester, and her husband Stephen became foster carers 13 years ago.

They look after children long-term, and currently have three.

She said: ‘The smallest thing can mean so much.

‘I really enjoy what I do.

‘We’ve got one lad who has been with us for nine years now.

‘We’ve got another boy who has been with us for nearly two and a girl who has been with us for three years.’

Sally said she sees foster care as a long-term commitment.

‘It works really well for us and for them because they become part of the family.’

Sally said they wanted to try fostering after their own children had grown up and moved out of home.

She said: ‘I wasn’t ready to hang up my mothering apron.

‘We had a spare room so it all fell into place.

‘Now it’s a full time job.’

Sally said helping the first boy in their care get through school was a challenge which paid off when he passed his exams with flying colours.

She said: ‘We were over the moon that he finished school and then went onto college.

‘Now he is in a full-time job.

‘It’s nice to be able to see it all the way through.’

Diane Gash, 61, of Fratton, agrees.

Diane and her husband David have been foster carers for 30 years, helping children from different backgrounds get the most out of their lives.

Diane said: ‘You don’t have to be rich or perfect or brilliant, you’ve just got to care about the children.

‘It’s about creating an environment where they can feel safe and they can go on to education.

‘It gives the children a second chance.’

Diane and her partner and also long-term foster carers. The first child they looked after was family member of a friend of theirs who they took in as part of a foster-care scheme.

‘She was 12 at the time when she came to live with us,’ Diane said.

‘Now she is 35 and has got children of her own.

‘She is very happy and we are still in touch.’

Diane said being a foster carer was not always easy and came with its own challenges.

But, she said, it was all worth it when she saw what a difference she could make to children’s lives.

‘We’ve got a 19-year-old, who came to us at the age of 13,’ she said.

‘Now he’s got plans to go onto university. He said something to me which I thought was the most wonderful thing, and that was: “It’s given me another chance at life.”’

Diane said foster care often helped children who had had a difficult start in life.

‘It shows them there are things other than pain and misery in life,’ she said.

‘There is another life there that they can get some enjoyment out of and have some fun.’

Someone else who knows how life-changing foster care can be is 18-year-old Rory Davies.

Rory has lived in Cosham with foster carers Barry and Deamonn Hewett-Dale for four years.

‘They have been so supportive and welcoming, and I have become part of the family,’ he said.

‘It’s being able to come home after a bad day at work or something and you know they are going to be there to support you and encourage you.’

Rory said he was living in a children’s home before he met Barry and Deamonn, and his motivation was suffering.

He said they helped him get his schooling back on track and achieve his goal of going onto further education.

Rory said: ‘When I was at the children’s home I barely attended class and I was failing my GCSEs.

‘Barry and Deamonn encouraged me to do well.

‘They were really supportive and I came out of it with nine or 10 GCSEs.

‘Now I’ve just finished college and I’m off to university in September to do film and TV studies.’

Rory said he had a part-time job at the Flying Bull Academy in Buckland, which had given him the chance to learn firsthand the rewards of working with children.

‘I absolutely love it to pieces,’ he said.

Rory said he relationship with his family had improved since he went to foster care.

‘Foster care is not about forgetting your family,’ he said.

‘I get on a lot better with them now.

‘I’m achieving well and I have a loving foster family as well.’

Foster Care Fortnight is a national initiative which runs in the first two weeks of June. Foster Portsmouth encouraging everyone to ‘make a connection’ to fostering, and raise awareness of young people who need a safe, stable environment while difficulties at home are addressed.

Meeting about foster care

Portsmouth’s highest viewpoint is to host a public information session about foster care.

People can find out more about becoming a foster carer at the Spinnaker Tower in Gunwharf Quays on Thursday, June 11 from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

Active foster carers will be there to answer questions in a warm, friendly environment.

Councillor Neill Young is Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for children and education.

Cllr Young said: ‘We would urge anyone who thinks they could offer a caring, stable home to a child or young person in care to come along to the event or simply chat to the fostering team.

‘We recruit foster carers from within Portsmouth and across the wider region as some children need to live outside the city.

‘Fostering a child could turn a young person’s life around and is a hugely rewarding experience, where carers receive high quality training and a first class support service.’

Visitors can find out how foster carers make a difference to a child’s life, earn competitive allowances and fees, and receive training and support.

Foster Portsmouth is looking for foster carers who are able to provide stability and care for children of all ages, and especially teenagers and sibling groups.

Some require short-term periods of care, while others need a permanent, loving home where they can grow and develop until they become independent.

Entry to th viewing deck is free for the event and bookings are not needed.

Visit fosterportsmouth.co.uk or call (023) 9283 4071 to find out more.

Fostering in Portsmouth

There are 326 looked-after children in Portsmouth and 268 of these children are living with foster families.

There are currently 142 families who foster through the Portsmouth City Council’s fostering service, and another 50 carers are needed to meet the needs of the city’s children-in-care.

There is also no official upper age limit on being a foster carer, and you can have a job outside of the home and still become a carer.

Single people can foster as well as married or cohabiting couples and there are many gay and lesbian foster carers.

You do not need to own your own home and you don’t have to be a parent to foster.

Foster carers look after children so families have the chance to sort out their problems.

These problems can range from a family member’s short-term illness to a parent’s depression or drug or alcohol abuse.

Many children who are in need of care have been abused or neglected.

Foster carers provide children with day-to-day support and much more. They may have to help these children come to terms with difficult or traumatic experiences.

They support children in their education, look after their health and promote social well-being.

The role is varied and challenging, and also includes attending meetings, keeping records, managingbehaviour and promoting contact with birth families.

Foster carers receive pre- and post-approval training and support to help them develop the skills needed to do this challenging and rewarding work.

Visit fosterportsmouth.co.uk to learn more about the resources on offer from the council for foster carers and the training and financial support they offer.