15 May 2023

Aberdeenshire Council highlights urgent need for carers during Foster Care Fortnight

Foster Care Fortnight begins today (May 15) and Aberdeenshire Council is highlighting the urgent need for foster carers to support children in need of a home.

Children come into foster care for various reasons, from problems at home and breakdowns in family relationships, to neglect and abuse.

Aberdeenshire Council currently has over 300 children, ranging from babies to teenagers, who are cared for by Foster Carers, by Kinship Carers or in residential care.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Fostering Team Manager Sara Youngson said: "Foster Carers are ordinary people in our communities - from young couples, older experienced parents or single people - and, like the children they care for, come from a variety of backgrounds. 

“What makes them extraordinary is that Foster Carers are warm, patient, understanding, flexible and have the ability to care for children safely.”  

One of those is Kerry Davidson, 55, who began fostering with Aberdeenshire Council in 2018.

With a grown-up son of her own, Kerry, who lives near Mintlaw with husband Kevin said: “I always wanted a household of kids – when I got together with Kevin we decided it was something we wanted to do and so we went down the route to become one and we haven’t looked back.

“It was a good process - we had someone come and speak to us and we were well aware of what would be in front of us. It was explained really well and was an enjoyable process with a few courses and checks.”

The couple have been looking after a child on a permanent basis for the last five years.

Kerry, who works as a school taxi driver, continued: “She came to us when she was eight and it’s so lovely to see her grow and flourish - to see this little timid child who first came to us and now she’s outgoing, she’s in Guides, she plays electric guitar, she’s done all of her swimming and she’s grown in confidence.”

Kerry added: “As far as I’m concerned being a foster carer is just being a parent – giving them the best opportunities you can and making sure they’re safe, healthy, loved and looked after.

“Anyone thinking about it, I would say just go for it, it’s so rewarding and there are loads of kids out there looking for homes.”

Banchory resident Patsy Paton has been fostering for over 25 years.

The 62-year-old started fostering with her husband Jim in 1998 and has cared for more than 100 children after finding her house was too quiet when her own children left home.

She said: “There’s never two days the same but ultimately, it’s just being a parent. It can be a challenge – the kids often have more complex needs. 

“No matter how bad it is for a child being at home, it’s what they’re used to and so taking them out of that situation, they don’t understand why when they’re little because that’s normal to them. 

“I had a two-year-old who’d never been in a bath - he watched me run the bath, and I set him in the water, and he hopped out saying ‘what you doing to me?’ and we had three weeks just playing in the water. 

“But that was his experience and we adapted, and it doesn’t take long. You have taken them out of what is normal for them, whether good or bad, they still miss what they had and it’s their normal – but it’s about getting them into routines and boundaries and consistency.”

The council’s fostering service recruits, assesses, trains and supports foster carers to ensure it provides the very best possible care to children who cannot live at home.

Sometimes care is needed at short notice when there is a crisis situation, or for just a few days or weeks. Sometimes a child needs a home for a few months, or even years. 

As well as these types of fostering, carers are also needed to offer regular weekend or holiday respite care.

Patsy, who says she now has 17 children who call her mum, added: “Most of the time the children we’ve fostered keep in touch – even kids that left me when they were two or three, they always touch base of some kind.

“I had a wee boy who went away for adoption when he was two and a half and just before Covid hit, he called me up to invite me to his wedding, which is lovely.

“You’re always happy that they’re moving on. It breaks my heart every time, but you get someone else and you’re so busy again, and whilst you don’t stop thinking about them, and although we’re sad we’re losing them, we’re happy for them that they’ve got their forever family.”

Foster carers are needed throughout Aberdeenshire, in rural areas and in towns, from all communities, religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, who can care for children who need to be fostered.

Aberdeenshire Council is particularly keen to hear from people who are interested in fostering older children, teenagers, children with additional needs and siblings.

The council welcomes applicants of any gender, regardless of sexual orientation – the authority is simply interested in your ability to provide a loving and stable environment for a child.

Chair of the Education and Children’s Services Committee Cllr Gillian Owen said: “Our foster carers are amazing people doing awesome things every single day and I cannot thank them enough. 

“They show our young people love with such compassion and help them through life when they need it the most. 

“Whilst we always strive to keep children at home with their parents or with members of their family, this unfortunately cannot always happen.

“Foster Care Fortnight helps us not only celebrate the incredible work our foster carers do, but I’d also encourage anyone thinking about taking the leap to become a foster carer to get in touch.”

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