Barnardo’s Scotland is appealing for more people to consider becoming foster carers with a focus on keeping siblings in care together
A Barnardo’s foster couple from Dumfries and Galloway, who welcomed four brothers into their family, are joining Barnardo's calls to encourage more people to consider fostering sibling groups, having seen first-hand the importance of giving brothers and sisters in care the opportunity to grow up together.
When Steve and Julie were approached by Barnardo’s seven years ago about fostering the four children, they knew straight away they wanted to care for the boys and stop them from being split up, giving them the chance to keep the strong bonds and relationships they now share together within a happy family environment.
A new YouGov survey for Barnardo’s encouragingly shows that 15% of adults in Scotland would consider fostering a child aged 18 or under in the next five years*. However, that figure drops to just 8% when asked the same question about fostering siblings**.
The survey** also shows respondents feelings on how vital they believe it is for siblings to remain together – 66% of adults said it was important that they and their sibling/s were together in the same household when they grew up, with 55% of respondents who had a sibling saying it would have had a negative personal impact on them if they had been separated while growing up.
Barnardo's Scotland is looking for more foster carers to ensure that when a child needs a loving, stable and safe family, there are local carers available.
The appeal comes as part of Barnardo’s Fostering Focus Month, and the charity hopes to hear from people from all backgrounds across Scotland, including BAME and LGBT communities. It is vital to increase the numbers of foster carers to ensure that when a child needs a family, the right carer is available to meet their needs and give them the care, stability and happiness they deserve.
The charity particularly hopes to hear from people willing to foster siblings, to enable Barnardo’s to continue supporting The Promise Scotland’s commitment to stop the practice of separating brothers and sisters in care, unless for reasons of safety.
Sue Brunton, Assistant Director for Barnardo’s Scotland Family Placement Services said:
“We are asking for people to please give serious consideration as to whether they could give a home to a child when they need it most. Your love and support can allow brothers and sisters to stay together and make a huge difference to their life – and to yours.
“Research into outcomes for children has found that when we separate siblings it is much harder for them to settle, and they have poorer wellbeing. Our survey shows that many people would consider fostering and we urge people to come forward to find out more about what being a foster carer involves - there’s no obligation.
“We welcome passionate individuals from all walks of life. If you are over 21, have a spare room, are a UK resident and most importantly have the time and commitment to support a child - you could be the special person they need.”
Barnardo’s has 100 years of experience in fostering. Experts provide all the training needed, which is ongoing, and offer support 24/7. Foster carers will also get financial support, including a carer’s allowance to help make a positive difference to a child’s life.
For further information about fostering with Barnardo’s Scotland, please contact your local fostering team:
Barnardo's Fostering North Scotland / Tel: 01224 624090
Barnardo's Fostering Glasgow and South West Scotland / Tel: 07718 969241
Barnardo's Fostering Edinburgh and South East Scotland / Tel: 07717 807403.
Steve and Julie's story - the couple from Dumfries and Galloway foster four brothers through Barnardo’s
Steve (61) and Julie (59) have five children of their own between them, aged from 28 to 36, but once their children had all grown up and left the family home, they felt they wanted to bring some more life, laughter and fun back into the house, so decided to look into fostering.
Julie says: “My grandad and his brother were both brought up in a Barnardo’s home, so fostering is something I’d always wanted to do, and after our children had left home, I knew it was the right time. Steve wasn’t as sure at first, but after he came to the first introduction meeting with me at Barnardo’s, his opinion completely changed.”
Steve says: “I was shocked to hear the scale of children who were going into care, and to hear about the traumatic experiences some of these children had suffered, and since then I never looked back and felt like we needed to do as much as we could.
“I can easily say it’s the most rewarding thing we have ever done to give these boys a happy life and make them part of our family. I was managing director of an international company for 20 years, and we were lucky to be able to travel extensively and see the world during this time, but none of that is as incredible as fostering. I love it so much that I now even train new foster carers with Barnardo’s.”
Steve and Julie have now been carers for seven years and started their fostering journey around eight years ago when they started their assessment process and training with Barnardo’s. The day after the couple were approved at panel to be foster carers, they were contacted about fostering four siblings.
Julie says: “At the time, it was just the two of us living in a five-bedroom house. We have five children of our own, and nine grandchildren now too, so we’re used to having a busy home. We didn’t want these boys to be split up – we wanted them to be able to grow up together and keep their relationships, so we were quick to say yes and a short time later they arrived with us.
“In the beginning, it was challenging having four young siblings together and learning to deal with and manage their different needs, but the training we received set us up well to know what to expect, including around attachment, managing behaviour and understanding that each child is unique and has different needs.
“The boys settled in well and our social worker and the team from Barnardo’s were always there for us if we needed any support.
“It has just been a joy and a privilege to see the boys come out of their shells, hit all their milestones and develop into the wonderful young men and boys that they are now. We have had so many special family moments and have loved providing them with their first of so many experiences. As they have got older it’s been lovely to see the strong relationships they have with each other and to know they feel happy, confident and secure with us.”
When the boys first arrived, Steve and Julie lived in a farmhouse, but in the last three years they have renovated a house in a village where they now live. Steve and Julie believe that the boys being involved in creating their new home has made them feel even more settled and secure, and they have been able to become more involved in their community too.
The family’s favourite things to do together are spending time outdoors, especially at the beach with their dogs, as well as having film and game nights on a Friday evening, where they play board games and watch a film together with treats.
Steve says: “Our kids treat the boys just like their own siblings, which is what they are – they all have a great relationship and do lots together.”
When asked what advice they would give to other people considering fostering, Steve and Julie said: “It’s important that people go into fostering with their eyes open – it can be extremely challenging, but it is so worthwhile and rewarding. We would encourage anyone who can give love and nurture to a child and help them to grow up in a loving home, to do it.
“And particularly if people are able to give the opportunity to a sibling group to be fostered together, so they have the chance to grow up and stay together, is incredible.
“The assessment procedure is extensive and delves deeply into your past, but it’s a good process and one that has to be done. The support we have had from Barnardo’s has just been superb from day one. They don’t just care about the kids, they care about us too. They are excellent at matching children to the right foster parents for them based on the different needs that each child and family has. There is a whole support range on offer and if we ever need anything, they are there.”
“There are lots of children out there who need to be given the opportunity to live in a caring home with a family that loves and nurtures them as they deserve. It has just been a pleasure for us to make these four lives happy.”