New video launched to find more families to foster a teenager
A Kirklees student and her foster carer have appeared in a video aimed at finding more families to foster a teenager.
17-year old Caitlin Marshall and Viv Senior feature in the ‘Foster Me’ video as part of our joint campaign with Leeds City Council. The film gives an honest insight into some of the challenges, misconceptions and rewards that come from fostering teenagers and it is hoped that this will inspire more people to come forward.
Urgent need for more families to foster a teenager in Kirklees
Locally and nationally there’s a shortage of foster families for teenagers and they remain one of the hardest groups to find families for. In the last six months alone Kirklees has seen 26 new cases of teenagers coming into care and we need to recruit at least 30 new foster carers over the next 12 months to meet the demand.
Caitlin spent much of her childhood in Dewsbury and Mirfield before being taken into care at the age of 14. After a number of short-term placements she went to live with Viv and Martin Senior last October.
“I think in some respects that being taken into care as an older child was worse than if I was younger; I knew exactly what was happening and why. I remember everything about it. I knew things were difficult at home yet somehow I believed I’d be going back.”
“ I knew pretty much straight away that I wanted to stay with Viv and Martin and now I feel a lot happier knowing I can do so until I’m ready to live on my own.”
Since being in care Caitlin has gone from strength to strength. She is now at Kirklees College in studying for a B-tech in Health and Social Care and hopes to pursue a career within the mental health sector. Caitlin has also been involved in an organisation for cared-for children in Kirklees, called the Children in Care Council. It gives children like Caitlin a voice about issues within the care system and she recently took part in a consultation at Westminster.
Despite turning her life around, Caitlin says there have been challenges along the way:
“ Before going into care my life had no direction. I skipped school and my grades suffered. Now my outlook is completely different. I used to feel a lot older than my years – like I was 14 going on 40 – but it’s now that I feel I’ve matured and that I’m able to get somewhere with my life.”
Caitlin’s foster carers, Viv and Martin Senior from Leeds, have fostered via Kirklees Council for the past three-and-a-half years and have looked after 16 older children on a long and short term basis, including respite and emergency cover.
Viv decided to share her story of what it’s like to foster a teenager to help dispel some of the common misconceptions and encourage others to follow their example. Viv said:
“I’ve met people with pre-conceived ideas about what fostering teenagers is like. Some think they might be difficult to control or that they’ll be too much trouble.
“It’s true that most of the children we’ve looked after have had various problems, but that’s not the same thing as being badly behaved. Some have been the victim of neglect and abuse and others have had to go into care because a parent has died or has had to go into hospital. Most just need love and support, someone who can invest a little bit in them by listening, letting them talk and express their opinions.
“There are many positives to fostering teenagers. If you start by having a good relationship then you can get through those challenges and it’s an enjoyable experience. Caitlin and I get on really well and have the same sense of humour. With teenagers you have more flexibility than with younger children in that it’s easier to continue in your job or go out of an evening. Also our social worker is fantastic as he always makes time for us and gives us the confidence we need to make the decisions we need to.”
Paul Johnson, Kirklees Council’s Assistant Director – Family Support and Child Protection, said:
“We urgently need both long and short-term foster carers who can provide loving homes for the teenagers who come into our care on a daily basis. We currently have 13 teenagers in short-term placements who urgently need long-term foster families. Without enough families some will find themselves being moved around and placed far away from everything they know, including their friends, siblings and local school.
“Being a teenager is confusing at the best of times. But for those faced with issues such as abuse, neglect or bereavement means that a stable and supportive environment is especially important. We always make sure our foster carers receive the training and support they need to help them along the way. The rewards of helping a teenager fulfil their hopes and aspirations speak for themselves so I’m urging people to help give these children a chance.”
Viv and other foster carers will be at a drop-in information events where you can go and find out more about what it’s like to foster a teenager:
Wednesday 24 February, 4.30pm -7.30pm, Huddersfield Town Hall.
Tuesday 15 March, 9.30 – 2.00pm at Dewsbury Town Hall.
Visit the Foster Me website for more details and videos about fostering teenagers, including profiles of some of the children waiting for carers.
You can also speak to one of Kirklees Council’s friendly fostering team by calling 0800 389 0086 .