A few weeks ago, I received a WhatsApp message from a foster carer. I clicked on it, and there was a beautiful photo, of three young boys, happily playing in a park, not a care in the world. The caption read, “It’s a privilege to be a foster carer. This is what it is all about.”
As we celebrate Foster Care Fortnight 2021, I want to say a huge thank you to the fostering community across Scotland. In spite of the huge challenges that the past year has thrown at everyone, foster carers have shown their unwavering commitment to providing warmth, love, and care to more than 4,700 children and young people across Scotland.
Foster carers have risen to the challenge of lockdown, of home schooling, supporting wellbeing, and helping children to stay in touch with those they love and miss. I have remained in awe of their commitment and determination and send my warmest thank you.
The support provided to foster carers by fostering services, and by professional organisations such as CELCIS and their recently established Scotland-wide Community of Practice (fostering stakeholders, including Scottish Government, Care Inspectorate, and a number of fostering services, who meet regularly to build on fostering expertise) during the pandemic has been most welcome and has added to the support for foster carers and fostering services as we all navigated these most unprecedented of times.
We are all working hard to shift policy, practice and culture so Scotland can #KeepThe Promise and ensure every child in foster care can grow up feeling loved, cared for, safe and respected, and able to realise their full potential.
I believe in the power of foster care, which is why I have dedicated so much of my life to making the system work better for children and young people, for their families and for foster families. I know that many of you reading this will have done the same, and I am grateful to you for that.
In the next 12 months, over 500 new foster families are needed across Scotland, with a particular need for foster carers who can look after brothers and sisters, to ensure they are not separated when they come into care. This need will become even more pronounced in July this year, when the Looked After Children (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 come into force and local authorities will be required to place siblings together unless there are real concerns to the contrary.
Becoming a foster carer could be the ideal opportunity for those who genuinely believe that every child deserves every opportunity to hold their head up high and be proud of who they are.
Being a foster carer is about more than just providing a nurturing family home for children, it is about what skills you bring to ensure that you can support a child’s development and growth. Foster carers need to be good listeners and communicators. They need confidence to speak up on behalf of the children in their care. They need to have an engaging personality, willingness to be part of a team to support a child, to work with birth families, and to learn alongside the children who come to live with them. They must be able to offer warmth, stability, love and security to children and young people who need it most.
In recent months, The Fostering Network has heard encouraging reports from its members that people are showing an interest in becoming foster carers. Many have had time to re-evaluate their priorities during lockdown, deciding they want to use the experience, skills and love they have to benefit others. By becoming a foster carer, individuals become part of a community who are dedicating their lives to giving children the chance to flourish and to have the best opportunities in life.
As we come to the end of Foster Care Fortnight 2021, I want to personally thank all of Scotland’s fostering community for how you have embraced the challenges of this past year. I want to thank foster carers for the incredible difference you and your family have made, and continue to make to the lives of children who come to stay with you. I want to also thank those children who have come to live with you and enriched your lives in ways you probably never could have imagined. Together, Scotland is stronger and prouder because of you.
The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author/s and may not represent the views or opinions of CELCIS or our funders.
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