Kirklees foster carer urges others to come forward during Foster Care Fortnight
37 year-old Lynsey Kinnear from Birkenshaw has been a foster carer since 2012. In doing so, she has fulfilled a life-long ambition to help give children the best possible start to life; an ambition fuelled by her father’s charitable efforts during her youth.
After just six months of providing respite foster care during weekends and holidays she didn’t think twice before offering two siblings the permanent foster home they so desperately needed. Lynsey is just one of many thousands of people who have opened their heart and home to children in need of a loving foster family. But this year alone, around 27,000 children across the UK will come into care needing a foster carer and it is estimated that more than 8,000 new foster carers are needed to help meet this demand.
This year’s national Foster Care Fortnight campaign has a theme of ‘make a connection’ and asks people to talk about what fostering means to them, their family, and their friends. Just as she was inspired by her father’s charity work, Lynsey hopes that her story will encourage more people to come forward and foster.
“Growing up, I can’t remember a time when my father wasn’t getting involved in some kind of charity work; something he still does to this day. Perhaps one of his proudest moments was when he delivered aid to orphanages in Romania in the late 1980’s and he was full of enthusiasm when showing us photos from his trip of some of the children he’d helped.
“For these children people like my dad were a lifeline yet it struck me just how much he got out of being able to help them. This sparked something in me that made me appreciate how lucky I was to have my family around me. I wanted to help too so I’d always donate my pocket money to children’s charities and get involved with fundraising whenever I could.
“As the years went by this desire to help never waned and though I had a stable job as a trainer, I yearned to do more and help make a difference. Inspired by my father’s experience I too spent a few weeks volunteering at a Romanian orphanage. Then one day a friend recommended I try fostering. As a single person it never occurred to me that this was ever an option. But it came as a surprise to me that there are a significant number of single people out there, with or without children of their own, who foster.
“After being approved as a foster carer I started out by offering respite care to families and other carers during weekends and school holidays. This fitted in nicely with my career and it meant I could do other things in my spare time.
“Then I was asked to provide respite care for two sisters over a period of time. From the moment we met something clicked. They were a joy to be around and the three of us quickly became close. Already in short-term care, they needed a permanent foster family, and were desperate not to be separated. Then it hit me; I wanted to be the one to give these sisters the permanent home they needed.
“During my training my social worker had predicted that I’d want to progress from respite, to long-term foster care, but I quickly dismissed this. Yet here I was imagining a future with these two wonderful girls who already felt like part of my family. This was something they wanted too – you could say we chose each other – so the wheels were soon set in motion to make it happen.
“By the time they moved in with me they’d already come a long way emotionally and developmentally thanks to the efforts of their previous foster carers. Two years on and now aged 10 and 12, the added benefits of them being part of a permanent, loving family, have been immeasurable. They’ll now grow up together and keep that special bond for life. Crucially, they’ll no longer have that fear that they might be separated or moved around.
“These days the girls are my main focus and we do everything together. After they came to live with me I gave up my training job. But now I train other local foster carers during their approval process which means I get to put my skills to good use. I’m also studying for a Diploma in the Children and Young People’s Workforce; part of the ongoing training available from Kirklees to help support me in my role.
“During my time in Romania I never imagined the huge difference a kind word or reassuring hold of a hand could make to a child. It made no difference that the children were not mine by birth and I believe it’s been the same with fostering. Being there for a child who has nobody else to turn to is what matters most. Fostering is a huge privilege and I feel so proud watching the girls grow up into happy, confident individuals and knowing that I’m a part of it all.”
Paul Johnson, Kirklees Council’s Assistant Director – Family Support and Child Protection, said:
“Last year we successfully matched over 70 children with long-term foster families but the number of children entering the care system continues to rise year-on-year locally and nationally. This year, we urgently need long-term foster carers like Lynsey for 45 local children but we’re also looking for people who can provide stable homes on a short-term basis, including older children and sibling groups.
“For children entering the care system it is often an emotional and confusing time. These children, through no fault of their own, find themselves uprooted from everything they know and need the stability that only a loving foster family can provide.
“We are urging people during Foster Care Fortnight to think about the difference they can make to a child’s life. Although it can be challenging, foster caring is also fun, fulfilling and hugely rewarding. Being a foster carer means that you get to invest in a child’s future and help give them the start in life they deserve.”
Find out more about foster care
Kirklees Council will be holding three open information events in Huddersfield for anyone who is interested in finding out more about fostering. Dates are:
- Wednesday 17 June – between 3pm and 5.30pm at Huddersfield Town Hall
- Wednesday 1 July – between 3pm and 6.30pm at Huddersfield Town Hall
- Wednesday 15 July – between 1pm and 5pm at Tolson Memorial Museum
Alternatively to talk to one of Kirklees’ friendly fostering team visit www.kirklees.gov.uk/fostering or call 0800 389 0086.