The care factor
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The care factor

There are more than 65,000 children living with almost 55,000 foster families across the UK, and 328 of those children are in Barnet. Louisa Walters spoke to two Barnet foster families

Louisa Walters is a features writer

Welcoming a child into your home as a foster carer can be a rewarding experience (pictures posed by models)
Welcoming a child into your home as a foster carer can be a rewarding experience (pictures posed by models)

Suki and Danny’s children get very excited when a new child comes to live with them for a while. “Imagine having a playdate who doesn’t leave!” says Suki.

The couple have been foster carers for six years, since their own children were three and six. Suki has a background in the care sector and, when he was young, Danny’s family used to offer respite to disabled children, so they were both minded to care for others in need.

“If you can open your heart and your home, this is one of the most rewarding and satisfying things you can do,” says Suki. That’s not to say that it presents without difficulties. “The children who have come into our home – whether it’s for a few weeks or a year – have come from troubled backgrounds and have to relearn how to attach and engage. We are very specific on what we can offer in terms of logistical and emotional needs and we only take one child at a time – we have to think about what will work for us as a family.”

Suki and Danny have taken in both Jewish and non-Jewish children and welcome the opportunity to share traditions with them and to learn about theirs.

“It’s sad when the children leave and we always have a break before taking in a new child, so that we can readjust and have time together as a family,”
says Suki.

Karen, Steve and their three children (24, 21 and 17) welcomed two boys aged three and five into their home in January 2020, just two months before lockdown. “People say to me all the time: ‘You’re amazing – I could never do it!’” says Karen. “But I believe that anyone could be a foster carer.”

Despite having three children and running a part-time business from home, Karen didn’t feel fulfilled. “There was a child at our kids’ school who lived
with his grandparents, and I started to think that maybe we could offer a home to a child like that,” she explains. Luckily, Steve was on board.

Their youngest son was worried about how they would feel when the children have to leave, but the placement has worked so well that it has developed into long-term foster care, meaning that the boys will stay with the family until they are 18.

“We decided as a family to help these children thrive and to give them a happy childhood – something every child deserves,” says Karen. “They had lived between the family home and the grandparents for a year when they came to us. They had no boundaries, no discipline and behavioural difficulties.

“It is challenging but the most meaningful and fulfilling thing I have ever done. When I pick up the boys from school and they run into my arms, I know I’ve done the right thing.”

Both families have amazing support and ongoing training from the Barnet team and work closely with a social worker.

“If I drop down dead tomorrow, at least I know I’ve done something with my life,” says Karen.

• For details on fostering in Barnet, visit www.barnet.gov.uk/fostering, email fostering@barnet.gov.uk or call 020 8359 6274

 

 

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