Foster carers across the region use time in isolation to highlight desperate need for fostering

Like many facets of society, the foster care system has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. However, foster carers across the region are continuing to provide day-to-day care to children who can't live with their birth families.

Foster families were already a scarce resource in our region. Due to the pandemic, however, fewer young people are able to leave temporary care for permanent arrangements, while many existing foster carers will be unable to accept children because they're having to isolate.

With councils in the East predicting a rise in the number of children being referred to care as lockdown eases, foster carers across the region have been using this time to encourage others to come forward to support a child.

As well as bringing up their own children, Helen and Dave Archer from Stevenage foster a 16-year-old girl, and support two over 18s who have left the care system. They've fostered for around 8 years now and want to encourage more people to come forward during this time.

Helen Archer with some members of her family Credit: ITV News Anglia

20-year-old Kelli is currently living with Helen's family as a 'care leaver'. She originally met the family when they found out she had no one to spend Christmas with and so invited her to celebrate with them. She's now been fully welcomed into the family with her baby boy, Julian, for extra support during the pandemic.

Kelli was welcomed in with her baby by Helen's family for extra support during the lockdown Credit: ITV News Anglia
Helen and members of the family playing in the garden Credit: ITV News Anglia

Every day over 3,000 foster families across the East of England are offering over 6,700 fostered children and young people a loving, secure and stable home. This commitment from foster families is ongoing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Councils in the East are already seeing a slow rise in the number of cases, and say they're expecting to see a steep rise in the number of children being referred to care as lockdown eases.

The Fostering Networks estimates that in the East of England alone, 650 foster carers need to be recruited in the next 12 months to cope with the demand.

Not only are carers and councils looking to recruit people during lockdown, they also want to dispel certain 'myths' surrounding fostering:

  • Depending which type of fostering you choose, working is not a barrier so please do contact us to find out more.

  • You are never too old to foster - we welcome the experience!

  • If you have your own children or no children we want to hear from you.

  • We don’t expect foster carers to be perfect, we want people who can offer safe, secure and loving homes.

  • You can be in a same sex relationship, married, single or living with a partner.

While we have all been told to keep our distance from friends and relatives, and keep our doors closed, that's not the case for foster carers who are being asked to take in more children.

Sue Neale from Essex usually provides support for other foster carers by hosting sleepovers for foster children among other things. Three weeks ago she was asked to take in a primary-school aged boy who had come into care as a result of the pressure of lockdown on his family. If Sue hadn't of stepped up, he could've ended up having to move out of the county.

Sue Neale, from Essex, took in a primary-school boy just 3 weeks ago Credit: ITV News Anglia

While it's not a role you'll see on the frontlines, it's s vital one nonetheless:

Like Helen and Sue, there are hundreds of foster carers across the region doing essential work to help vulnerable children through the pandemic. In order to raise awareness of this during the coming weeks, many have been taking pictures of what they’ve been doing to keep their foster children occupied during lockdown.

Some have been building dens, creating artwork, baking, setting up an outdoor cinema, and more.

Foster carers have been taking pictures of what they've been getting up to in lockdown Credit: ITV News Anglia

Councils are asking who anyone who thinks they may have the skills to foster a child to get in touch and get some more information.