Torbay Council leader: Foster carers are backbone of any good children’s service
- Credit: Archant
This weekend my 95-year-old great aunt Muriel, who served in the Women's Royal Naval Service in the war, became another statistic of those who have died from this coronavirus.
VE Day was particularly poignant for our family as many of our minds turned to our 21st century heroes who are assisting people like Muriel, who was in hospital on VE Day, across the country to fight this awful virus.
It is perhaps fitting that I talk of Muriel in this column as this week I want to particularly focus on our foster carers in Torbay, with it being Foster Care Fortnight.
After the war Muriel married into the circus and one of her star turns was to stand on the shoulders of her husband as he stood on the back of two horses bringing great delight to all of the families in attendance at the circus.
In recent years Torbay has had a challenging time with children's services.
It is our number one priority as the partnership between the Lib Dems and Independents, who run the council, to have a service that has a clear vision and aspiration for our children in Torbay.
The backbone of any good children's service is a thriving community of in-house foster carers.
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Last autumn our Cabinet member for children's services arranged four drop-in tea and cake events so that she and other councillors could hear directly from the foster carers of what their hopes and concerns were.
I attended the majority of these and was blown away by the commitment of these people who had made a space in their lives for children in desperate need.
I always thought that fostering was mostly for people whose children has grown up and left home but I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of our foster families who were fostering a child while having similar-aged children of their own.
Our foster carers continue to do a fantastic job of keeping our children safe and secure during this pandemic.
Not all areas are experiencing such a committed and caring attitude from their foster carers and we can be very proud of every single one of ours in Torbay.
Over recent weeks we have conducted foster carer interviews and panels by Zoom, a video conferencing platform, and recently approved a new family as foster carers.
We currently have a number of potential carers in virtual assessment and other new enquiries, despite lockdown.
It's Foster Care Fortnight from May 11 to 24 and, while this year it will be unlike any other with the current Covid-19 shutdown, if you're interested in fostering, we need you more than ever here in Torbay.
Torbay Council recently asked a group of local foster carers what they thought the best part of fostering is and they said fostering is a 'privilege' and a 'gift' – they say that when you decide to foster in Torbay you become part of a community with other local foster carers.
Recently 20,000 postcards went out to try and reach any young person who may be struggling with issues from abuse to isolation and loneliness through the lockdown.
The effect of lockdown on our young people is a big worry nationally and with children and young people not attending schools and youth groups, we have seen an almost 40 per cent reductions to the referrals hub.
In response, we produced a postcard with helpful information and contact numbers for young people and this was delivered to homes with a local newspaper and was also be included in families' food parcels and school work that went home to young people.
In regard to this initiative, Torbay Council's children's services has been recognised nationally and the department for education is using Torbay as an example of good practice when supporting our children through this pandemic.
• If you want to find out more about fostering you can go to www.torbay.gov.uk/fostering and you can contact the Fostering service on 01803 207845 or email firstname.lastname@example.org