Fostering is vital

Fostering makes a huge and positive difference to the lives of so many children and young people. It is also a highly rewarding experience for the foster carers who look after the children.

Some of your readers may have thought about fostering but might not know how to start. Others may have concerns that might prove unfounded once they are given the information they need.

West Sussex County Council urgently needs to recruit more foster carers. This is to make sure the county maintains the broad range of experience and skills it requires to meet the needs of our looked after children. It is also because some of our carers are reaching retirement.

One of our carers for example has fostered for over 45 years. During that time she has looked after 530 children. Although aged 70 she is still fostering but obviously can’t go on forever.

Children come into care for a range of reasons including family illness or because they have been abused or neglected. Fostering can be both short or long term and can range from just a few days to several years.

Fostering provides children with a loving family home while their problems are dealt with. The Council does its utmost to match foster carers in the county with West Sussex children best suited to them.

Children and young people thrive on familiarity so we try to keep them close to their school, friends, people and places they know.

At the same time we make sure our carers receive all the training and support they need.

Foster carers come from all walks of life and from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. You can apply to foster regardless of your marital status or sexuality.

During Foster Care Fortnight (16 - 29 May) we are holding a series of events in the County.

These include informal drop-in sessions – Rustington Library 26 May and Crawley Library 28 May - where there will be a chance to ask questions to existing foster carers and our recruitment team.

I would strongly urge any of your readers who have thought about fostering to get in touch with us by calling 01403 229333 or visiting www.westsussex.gov.uk/fostering.

They could make a big difference to the children in need of care and at the same time enrich their own lives.

Peter Evans, West Sussex County Council Cabinet member for Children and Families and lead member for Children’s Services, County Hall, Chichester