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Caithness News Bulletins February 2005

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10 February 05
A major recruitment drive was launched in the Highlands this week for foster carers for young people.

The Highland Council's Fostering and Adoption Service is seeking people who have room in their lives as well as in their homes who could consider becoming foster carers and changing the lives of young people.

The Council's fostering campaign is appealing to a widespread audience in local adverts on TV, radio and newspapers. Although the campaign focuses upon fostering young people aged 13 and over, the Council would also like to hear from those interested in helping younger children and sibling groups.

Councillor Margaret Davidson, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Young People and Children, said: "We are looking for a range of people with different skills and different time available, from 3 days, 3 months to 3 years. We want as many people as possible to come forward as we need to build up our bank of carers, so we have more choice when young people need to be looked after away from home. We want people to be foster carers and change a young person's life ... for life."

Highland Councillor Margaret Davidson (left) Chairwoman of The Joint Committee on Young People and Children with foster carer Gladys Solway (right) at the launch of the foster recruitment campaign.There is no such thing as a typical foster carer. They come from all backgrounds, some are married, some are not, and some own their own houses, some rent. What they do have in common is a desire to help young people and children who need a chance of some stability and support to get them through hard times in their lives for short or longer periods.

Gladys and Duncan Solway have been fostering for 24 years and during this time have looked after more than 100 children. Gladys said: "We have enjoyed fostering teenagers, they keep you young and in touch with the 'modern world'. They have enriched our lives and our own children's lives. Helping young people move on and live independently, support them through college, employment or with their own flat has been rewarding and challenging. If we had our lives to live over again we would make the same choices about fostering."

Foster carer, June Mackinnon who has looked after more than 100 children over 14 years said: "Helping young people to find interests and activities which they really enjoy and make them feel good about themselves is all part of preparing them for adult life. Many of them lack confidence and don't believe they are worth bothering about. When they come back to visit and you see them bringing up their own children, repeating things you did with them, or phoning to tell you about the milestones and achievements of your 'foster grandchildren' then it makes you feel all the time spent with them in their teens has paid off."

Caroline Holmes fosters young people in emergency situations for a couple of nights at a time so far she has cared for around 21 young people over a 3 year period. She said: "I'm frequently asked why as a family we foster young people. For those who want a quick answer we say 'Because we can'. But to those who want to really know we tell them that we do so because we care about young people, we respect them as individuals with their own thoughts, feelings and experiences and we want to be able to support young people at a time in their lives when they are moving towards independence."

There are currently 115 children living with foster carers, which is almost twice as many as those in residential care (60). There are 90 foster carers in Highland, who care for 115 children, half of whom are teenagers. Many more children and young people affected by disability need care for short breaks.

There is always a demand for short breaks for young people with disabilities which compliments the work of the respite care centre at the Orchard, in Inverness.

Harriet Dempster Director of The Highland Council's Social Work Service said: "We have a target to recruit another 20 carers with this campaign and in return we offer good support from professional dedicated staff and access to development and training opportunities."

The council's Fostering and Adoption Service gives: 200 a week for fostering a 13 year old; professional support and training from the Fostering Team; help with health and school issues; and support from other carers.

To find out more contact The Highland Council's Fostering and Adoption Service on 01463 703431 or e-mail: fostering@highland.gov.uk