I HAVE spent some of this week down in Brighton at the Labour Party Conference, but my thoughts are never far from Oldham.
One of the biggest challenges we face in the borough is encouraging residents to become foster carers and open up their homes.
It is a serious struggle – especially in the case of teenagers – to find those people who can play a vital role in helping young people to get a stable life, achieve the best they can at school and prepare them for adulthood.
It requires foster carers who are prepared to get involved in the emotional development of young people – which can bring its own trials and tribulations – but the rewards for doing it can also be absolutely fantastic.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have met some of the many inspiring and proud people that already do this work in Oldham.
They set a fantastic example and make a great contribution to our communities which is why this week I asked our Fostering Team to ‘guest blog’ and explain more about fostering and the opportunities on offer…
Oldham Council believes that the best place for children to live is with their own family. Sadly for some children, this isn’t possible.
When a child cannot live at home, the next best alternative is usually for them to live in a foster family.
Fostering is caring for someone else’s child in your home and doing all the things any good parent would do including making sure their health is good, helping them do well at school, and to maintain links with their family and friends.
Here in Oldham we have more than 140 households that care for around 230 children and young people, each doing a fantastic job. However, our greatest challenge is finding foster families for teenagers and children with complex needs. Sadly some of these children live in residential homes or out of borough in independent foster families, away from family and friends.
In order to bring these children back into the borough we have developed a new scheme called One2One fostering. This new service is for children or young people who have experienced significant neglect or trauma; and who are in need of specialist foster care.
One2One fostering provides a child or young person with a supportive family where they can build a trusting relationship with a foster carer whilst they receive therapy to help them to overcome traumatic experiences.
This is where we need your help and support. Maybe you have been considering fostering for some time, or know others who are interested. Equally, you may have not given the matter any thought – but please do so now.
Fosters carers in Oldham consistently tell us that fostering is life changing, not just for the child or young person but for themselves too.
“Rather than fostering younger children we wanted to foster teenagers. Teenagers are at the most important phase of their emotional and educational development. This is a traditionally tough time for them, but more so for those in care.
“The most rewarding experience so far has been helping a teenage girl to realise her full potential. She was mixing with the wrong group of peers and she was regularly excluded from school. After spending some time with her we discovered that she was incredibly bright and with support and a lot of determination she went from achieving U grades to A’s and B’s.
“Fostering is a vital part of society and it feels good to be part of it and give something back to your community. We wouldn’t change it for the world.”
You don’t need specialist qualifications to foster. Life experience and personal qualities can make a huge difference to a young person. All we ask is that you are aged over 21 and have room in your home.
Our team works extremely hard to make sure all our carers receive specialist training and support, plus a generous financial package of up to £29,000 per year.
If you would like to find out more, call 0161 770 6600 or go to http://www.oldham.gov.uk/fostering
Finally, we want to give a quick mention to our adoption team who recently received ‘Good’ in our Ofsted inspection.
Monday 19 October marks the start of National Adoption Week and we would like to hear from anyone interested in adopting older children, brothers and sisters or children with additional needs. Sadly, there is a shortage of adoptive parents coming forward for these children.
During National Adoption Week local authorities – and everyone who works in adoption – will be working together to highlight the plight of these vulnerable children and to help them find forever families.
If you could offer that gift to someone then please call 0161 770 6605 or go to www.oldham.gov.uk/adoption
Thanks for listening,