County in need of more carers

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There are currently 805 children from the county who are in foster care.

Over the past few years Northamptonshire County Council has seen its demand for carers increase, partly because of high-profile child abuse cases elsewhere in the country which have seen local authorities be more proactive about taking children into care.

Earlier this year the council invested more money into fostering and took part in a nationwide recruitment campaign called Fostering Fortnight to drive up foster carer numbers and reduce the number of children looked after by private foster agencies which cost more money.

Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for children and young people Cllr Andrew Grant said: “Recently we’ve been averaging about 780 to 790 children in care and at the moment we have 805 youngsters.

“Foster caring is an absolutely essential opportunity to take a child who has often had bad experiences and bring them into a loving family environment.

“Sometimes the children don’t need to be away from the area they’re from which means they can, for example, continue to go to the same school. This is one of the reasons it’s important that we have foster carers across the county.”

Alex van Vliet, 38, of Irthlingborough, and his wife Vikki, 36, began fostering three years ago and opted to provide short-term fostering for babies because their daughter is young.

He said: “It was initially my wife’s idea to become a carer and at first, although I was fully supportive, I was a little apprehensive but it’s been such an amazing thing to do. It’s very rewarding and one of the major things for me is the effect it has had on our daughter. Having foster children has taught her how to share.”

The couple have cared for three babies so far.

Mr van Vliet said: “The first child came to us when she was two days old and left us when she was 17 months. It was very emotional when she moved on because we were her family but we knew she was going to a nice place. You do build emotional attachments but from our perspective we know we can help lots of children rather than just one.”

County council principal social worker Nicky Carlton said: “The number of children coming into care has increased, particularly since cases like Baby P and Victoria Climbie which have made people more aware of the difficulties within families. This means we need more foster carers.

“We used to have children’s homes but it’s now widely believed that the best way for children to be looked after in foster placements is by a family.

“It’s completely overwhelming the difference foster carers can make to a child’s life. In some cases they take very damaged children and help them to heal – it’s a very selfless thing they do.

“We’d urge anyone who wants to find out more about fostering to get in touch with us, even if they just want to make a tentative inquiry. We can answer any questions people have and provide them with information and they don’t have to take things further if they don’t want to.

“Many people who come forward have already had a family who have left home and they have a lot of life skills and parenting skills that can feed into the fostering process.”

One of the groups of young people the council is always keen to find foster carers for is adolescents.

Mrs Carlton said: “We always focus on trying to recruit foster carers for adolescents and it can be an area that foster carers grow into over time.

“There are people who want to be carers but have no interest in looking after younger children.

“Caring for adolescents is a very rewarding form of fostering and we get good feedback from the adolescents themselves. They recognise that they are being offered a stable and secure home and we know of many young people who have gone back in their 20s to thank their foster carers for getting them through difficult times.”

Foster carers are provided with a buddy who is an approved foster carer, have access to support groups and their own supervising social worker who is on hand to help them.