A Northamptonshire teenager is lending his voice to a new appeal for foster carers in the county.
Eighteen-year-old Stephen, who has lived with his foster family for six years, is asking people to consider whether they have room in their home and in their lives to support a child or young person.
Stephen, from Northampton, is playing a central role in a new radio campaign by Northamptonshire County Council running on Heart radio and Connect FM over the summer as he talks about why fostering is so important – and why having a spare room is a major factor.
Stephen said: “There was a lot of instability in my life before I came into care. Being in a foster placement meant that things were more stable, there were no sudden unwelcome surprises and there were no big dramatics.
“My carers made me feel welcome and they gave me an environment where I felt comfortable and safe.
“When I moved in, my bedroom was my safe place. I filled it with things that have happy associations and memories and it became my quiet place where I could chill out or listen to my music. It helped me to feel safe and welcome.”
Cllr Heather Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services, said: “The new campaign is asking people to consider if they have room in their lives to care for a child or teenager.
“On the one hand, that means having the physical space of a spare room. It’s really important for children in foster placement to have their own space and privacy. The experience of being in care and going to live in a new home, whether it’s for weeks or years, can be overwhelming. It’s important that they have a room of their own, their personal space where they know they are safe and secure.
“On the other hand, we need our foster carers to have room in their lives to offer support and guidance to children and young people who above all else, need a stable and encouraging environment.”
In his current placement, Stephen’s school attendance went from 29 per cent to 95 per cent and he achieved 10 GCSEs before going on to study engineering.
He attributes his academic success to a combination of his own determination and his foster carers’ encouragement, adding: “I didn’t need a parent, I already had parents – I needed a role model.
“My foster carers had a lot of patience, they helped me to make sure my voice was heard and they looked out for me.”
Having recently turned 18, Stephen is looking forward to moving into his own place and getting a job. He is actively involved in the training of new foster carers helping them to understand the child’s perspective of fostering.
The county council has told potential foster carers the position is rewarding and that they would receive support and training along the way.
There are different types of fostering including, emergency, short-term and permanence. Foster carers are paid an allowance and a further payment which increases as the carers’ skills increase.
For more information, members of the public can call the fostering recruitment line on 0300 126 1009 or click here.