For many families, the start of a new year can present an opportunity to take on a new challenge.
Now as part of its latest campaign to fill the urgent need for foster families, Staffordshire County Council is asking people to consider fostering as the next step in their lives.
For one Staffordshire couple, the decision to become a foster family proved to be one of the best plans they had ever made.
Nicola Clay and husband Jonathan, along with their two grown up daughters, embarked on their fostering journey in 2019. The former headteacher and operations manager have already fostered a new-born baby, who stayed with them for 16 months and are now looking forward to providing a loving home to other children.
Nicola said: “We decided to foster as we wanted a change of career and a new challenge to work on together. After more than 30 years in education, I still wanted to support children in some way if I could. Our own children are grown up and in higher education, which means we now have the time and the space to make a difference to the lives of other children.
“Our girls attended an initial fostering information evening along with us and came home saying, ‘mum we’ve got to do this’. Having a foster child to look after has been both the most rewarding and, at times, the most difficult thing we have done. Seeing the baby we cared for and with whom we are still in regular contact grow and develop so happily, made the challenges all the more worthwhile.
“We really valued the help and advice we received from social workers, other foster carers and our family and friends. Although we had brought up two children of our own, it was 20 years ago and the up-to-date training and support we received were incredibly useful.
“We moved house a week before Christmas, which was a challenge in itself, but we are now settled in and all of us are really looking forward to being able to offer another child a loving, nurturing home.
“Since embarking on our fostering experience, many people including friends, family members and work colleagues have said that it is something they have considered doing. To them, and to anyone else who may be hesitating, I think we would say – just take that first step and find out more. It may well be one of the most important steps you ever take.”
Staffordshire needs to find 180 new foster families over the next three years, with a particular need for carers for teenagers and sibling groups. Now, the county’s Fostering Service wants to hear from anyone interested in becoming a foster carer.
“We are always looking for foster families just like Nicola and Jonathan to come forward” explained Mark Sutton, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Staffordshire County Council.
Mark said: “January and the start of a new year can be a time when people think about doing something different with their lives or taking on a new adventure or challenge. That’s why we’re asking people to consider fostering and take that next step to find out what’s involved.
“Fostering makes a real difference to the lives of hundreds of children in Staffordshire every day. And when we talk to our foster carers, they tell us it’s a hugely rewarding and satisfying thing to do.
“Most people can foster. You simply need to care about children, have good communication skills, have a spare bedroom and be ready for a challenge. Attending one of our drop-in events or joining us on Facebook Live could be your first step to becoming a foster carer and I would encourage anyone thinking about it to just do it.”
People interested in becoming a foster carer with Staffordshire County Council can find out more at the fostering information events being held in January, by visiting www.fosterforstaffordshire.co.uk or by calling 0800 169 2061.