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Over the past year, there has been much concern across the UK about the impact of Covid on children’s physical and mental wellbeing. They have had disrupted routines, time away from school and missed opportunities to physically interact with friends due to the pandemic. Although only a temporary pause in childhood experiences, there is much concern over the long-lasting impact this period of increased anxiety may have on our young people. It has also highlighted the tragic fact that many children go hungry, unless fed at school.
As we approach Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from 10 – 23 May, Essex County Council are seeking to highlight how missing out on aspects of childhood can often be a sustained normality for many children arriving into care. They also want to highlight the life changing difference foster carers are making in giving children a second chance at the childhood they have been deprived of and helping them to recover from the trauma experienced.
Essex County Council’s Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Dr Barbara Canepa said: “Childhood should be a time of nurturing and feeling safe to play, learn, socialise and explore – a pivotal point which lays the foundation for the adult they become. Playing and feeling secure enough to behave like a child is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of young people.
“Sadly, it’s quite common for many foster children to have missed out on large parts of their childhood through trauma and neglect, many have also played a parenting role to their younger siblings and parents”.
Barbara added: “Foster carers can help a child heal from their trauma by giving them a second chance at childhood. Our role is to give them the knowledge, support and tools to do so”.
Single foster carers, like Fran (aged 66), from Basildon in Essex, who has been fostering for over 30 years. Fran currently fosters two girls aged 9 and 18.
Fran recognises that her youngest foster child, in particular, lost out on her childhood as she took on the role of both mother and father at a very young age. She would routinely miss school so she could feed, wash and dress her young sibling, including changing her nappy.
Fran is keen to provide her foster children with nurturing parental support so that they can focus on being a child again.
Fran said: “She had so much responsibility at such a young age. It breaks my heart to hear that she would often resort to eating cat food and beg neighbours for food. She even learnt how to ration food for them, ensuring that when they did have food that it lasted.
“Not knowing where their next meal was coming from has really impacted on her relationship with food. Even now, she will eat very fast and given the chance will not stop eating for fear that this is the last time for a while that she will have food. I have worked closely with her to monitor what she eats to ensure she has a healthy, balanced diet, and doesn’t overeat”.
Due to the impact of Coronavirus the fostering service has seen a 30% reduction in approved foster carers this year. Essex County Council is therefore urging more people like Fran to support vulnerable children by becoming a foster carer.
This Foster Care Fortnight Fran is recommending that anyone thinking about fostering children or young people should just pick up the phone and enquire.
Fran said: “I’ve come to accept after many years of fostering different children with different needs, that challenges for those who have experienced traumas in their young lives don’t go away overnight. The most rewarding thing is when you see the small incremental changes over a period, be it months or years, and you realise what a positive impact you are having on those children. It’s not all about the big gestures. It can be the subtle things, like having a routine and some home comforts, which make the difference.
“Being a foster parent has very much enriched my life for the better. It’s not always easy, but l wouldn’t change it for one minute.
You often want to change the world but when you foster a child you often end up changing their world. And your own”.
Find out more by visiting https://bit.ly/3dKZK5j or calling 0800 801 530.