Long-term foster carers wanted for urgent cases
One of our social workers is leading an appeal to find long-term foster families across Kirklees for some of our most urgent cases.
Imran Hamid, a long-term family finder at Kirklees Council, has spoken out in the hope that permanent foster carers can be found for 42 local children and young people.
Many have been waiting several years to find long-term families and have been moved around various short-term placements, sometimes away from their local area.
Children like eight year old Toby (not his real name) are one of our most urgent cases. Toby entered the care system in 2011 when he was just three having suffered from neglect.
Because of a shortage of long-term carers attempts to find a family for Toby have so far proved unsuccessful and he’s lived with four different short-term carers during his five years in care. Unless a family can be found, Toby may need to be moved to a residential unit, possibly in another area, for the remainder of his childhood.
“Toby is a lovely, affectionate little boy. But he’s had to endure so much during his short life and sadly, he bears the emotional scars of early childhood trauma. With the help of his foster carers Toby has come a long way but gets very sensitive and withdrawn when he’s upset and unsurprisingly has major trust issues. This hasn’t been helped by the fact that he’s moved around different homes.
“What Toby needs is a resilient family he can trust to provide the permanency that’s been so lacking in his life. He needs a family that cares enough to see him through thick and thin, where he can feel settled and secure in the knowledge that he won’t have to move on until he’s ready to live independently.
“Toby is reaching the stage where another short-term placement could prove detrimental to him so we’re having to consider moving him to a residential unit. Care workers at these homes do a brilliant job and for some it’s the most suitable option. But Toby really needs to be part of a permanent family unit. With the right family Toby would overcome all of his issues and be able to thrive.”
Toby is not alone. The 42 children in Kirklees in need of long-term foster families come from varying ages, backgrounds and ability levels, with many over the age of five, teenagers, or part of sibling groups. As well as Toby other urgent cases include a five and six year-old sibling group who face being moved away from their home town, a 13 year-old boy who is desperate to be part of a warm, nurturing family for the rest of his childhood, as well as an eight year-old boy with autism, who requires a loving family who can meet his additional needs.
In stressing the urgency of finding more long-term families, Imran adds: “When a child comes into care they’re often scared and confused. They’ve been let down by the very people they were supposed to be able to trust and suddenly they’re faced with living somewhere unfamiliar with people they don’t know.
“Many children start off in emergency care sometimes for a few days before being moved to a short-term family. It might be that the carer can only look after them for a few weeks or months but the hope is that their next move will be permanent. In reality they can face being moved again and again to temporary placements because of the shortage of long-term families.
“When children are having to move several times they start to question; “why can’t I stay here, what’s wrong with me? Sadly the older a child, the more difficult they become to place permanently. Without enough long-term carers a child can neither settle nor can they form bonds or attachments and they often act up because they think their carers will give up on them.
“As a social worker you get to know a child and feel personally responsible for them. You want to find the right family for them and see them go on to do well. Children like Toby are a joy to be around. You think, here’s a child with so much potential and so much to give, with all the makings of someone who can really go on to be a success story. This can only happen for Toby and children like him if more people come forward to help unlock that potential.”
During his ten years at the local authority, Imran has worked in several roles, dealing with countless foster carers, children and birth families. In that time he’s played a key role in ensuring that children remain at the heart of the fostering process.
“We try to give children back some of the control that’s been missing in their lives by involving them in key decisions about their future. Particularly with older children, we discuss with them their needs when trying to find them a family. We ask them what they want; do they want to be the oldest or the youngest child or do they want us to take into account cultural or religious factors? The focus is very much on the child.”
Such practices have helped Imran and his team to successfully place more than 100 children with long-term foster families in the last two years. Equally crucial to this success is his team’s work with prospective foster carers.
“We work with new foster carers so they know what to expect. By managing expectations there’s a better chance a placement will succeed. The general view used to be that at 18 a child could go out into the world and live independently. But there’s now an understanding that at 18, a child is rarely mature or emotionally stable enough to look after themselves and that they’ll need support until they feel ready to move on. Many go on to further education so may need that stability into their 20’s.
“Long-term fostering isn’t easy. But it’s important to understand that certain behaviours, such as messy bedrooms and pushing boundaries are a normal part of growing up, especially during the teenage years. Often it’s a sign that the carer is doing something right because the child feels settled enough to do those things.
“We need people who are resilient and strong, people who will strive to bridge that gap of what a child might have lost during their early years and we provide full training and support to prepare for this. Over the years I’ve seen many children defy the odds and go on to succeed both in life and academically. This is in no small part thanks to the tremendous efforts made by our dedicated, long-term foster carers.”
Want to find out more about long-term foster care?
You can talk to one of Kirklees Council’s fostering team on 0800 389 0086 or visit www.kirklees.gov.uk/fostering where you can read about some of the 42 children in urgent need of long-term foster families.