“Foster carers really do care” – that’s not a slogan or a soundbite, but the words of a young man who is making his way in life thanks to the support he received from Somerset County Council’s amazing foster carers.
As the Council marks Foster Care Fortnight, Callum is sharing his experiences of life in care and says that without the support he received from foster carers, he wouldn’t be where he is today.
He sums up just why fostering is so important for children and young people: “All we want is someone to love us, someone to understand us, someone to cry on when the first relationship goes wrong, that’s really important to us and we just want a place to call home.”
Now 21, he was just 12 when he went into care and left care at 18 – so knows just what’s involved. He readily admits he was troubled at first, saying: “I thought everyone was against me after losing my mum and granddad, but something clicked. Foster carers do actually care. They are not there for the money or to be bossy, they want to change your life and once I realised that, I began to change. If it wasn’t for foster care I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
And today Callum is a shining example of a young man who is returning the care he received by showing his support for others through charity work and fund raising – such as shaving his hair and organising events.
His proudest achievement is collecting more than 700 Easter eggs for the children’s ward at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton this year. He has also collected six different care awards, helping a community group win volunteer group of the year – all while completing a college catering course.
He realises that leaving care can be “scary” and said: “I have had so much support. You get help with budgeting, finding a house if needed, life skills, emotional support and if you have any problems the Leaving Care team will try to do their best to help and support you.”
And his message to anyone thinking about fostering?
“If you are thinking about fostering, and you think it’s right, do it. It helps a child out so much and changes their life – it really does mean a lot to them. Now I wouldn’t lie to you, there will be ups and downs, funny moments, angry moments, crying moments, but that’s everyone’s life, right? There is a film called Instant Family, it’s not exactly how it works but it will give you a good idea of it!”
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Lead Member for Children’s Services at Somerset County Council, said: “In Somerset we need foster carers more than ever now because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of our current foster carers are having to shield and sadly we have more children coming into our care.
“Callum’s story is inspiring. As he says, fostering can change a child’s life and give them the safety and security they so desperately need.”
There are over 500 children in care and about 200 County Council foster carers. The children in need of care are of all ages and backgrounds, but the greatest need is for foster carers for older children and teenagers like Callum, and also for sibling groups.
County Council foster carers receive a competitive weekly fee and allowance along with a dedicated supervising social worker, additional training opportunities and ongoing support.
To find out more visit www.fosteringinsomerset.org.uk or call 0800 587 9900. You can also follow the Fostering In Somerset Facebook page @fosteringinsomerset or Twitter account @fostersomerset.
A number of online information sessions will be available to watch live during Foster Care Fortnight, with the first planned for 2.30pm on Wednesday 20 May. Details of the sessions and how to get involved can be found on the Fostering In Somerset website and social media platforms, along with foster carer interviews and a competition.