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The positive impact carers have in Dorset and the need for more

PUBLISHED: 12:06 06 August 2015 | UPDATED: 12:06 06 August 2015

Nita and David. Two of the Dorset foster carers who featured in the BBC series. Photo: BBC/Garry Maclennan

Nita and David. Two of the Dorset foster carers who featured in the BBC series. Photo: BBC/Garry Maclennan

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A recent BBC documentary featured Dorset County Council’s foster carers. Toni Coombs discusses the positive impact carers have and the desperate need for more

A recent BBC Two television series, Protecting Our Foster Kids, lifted the lid on the amazing work people from all walks of life do to look after vulnerable children in Dorset.

Each programme took a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ look at stories of children placed with foster families and the issues faced by all involved – not only the children and their carers, but also birth parents, social workers and, in some cases, the foster carers’ own children.

Dorset County Council agreed to co-operate with the BBC documentary team because we felt it was a great opportunity to showcase the real difference our foster carers make, at a time when demand is greater than ever.

But even though I have been the council’s Cabinet member for children’s services for more than 10 years and have developed a good understanding of fostering, I found the series a real eye-opener.

The cases it highlighted, from babies through to troubled teenagers, stirred a wide range of emotions including frustration, sadness, humour and admiration.

It was undoubtedly hard to watch at times. But while fostering can be challenging, I think the series also captured how fulfilling it can be, and the huge positive impact foster carers can have on young lives.

Every child’s journey into care is different, as are the reasons why they cannot remain living with their own family. Some children, through no fault of their own, come with heart-rending life experiences, disrupted parenting and trauma of some kind.

Some of our fosterers have cared for dozens of children, from short-term emergency placements to stays lasting years, while others have forged deep-rooted bonds with youngsters who end up becoming part of their family on a permanent basis.

All of them provide a loving, stable and secure home to children at a difficult time in their lives – a safe haven they can flourish in.

We desperately need more foster carers. The last 12 months have seen a significant rise in the number of children coming into care, and around half of those waiting for placements are aged 11-plus.

If fostering is something you have thought of doing, we would love to hear from you. As long as you are over 21, have a spare room, a big heart and plenty of patience, you could be eligible.

There are a range of fostering options available and, once you have been properly assessed and interviewed, we will provide full training and on-going support.

Fostering isn’t something to rush into, and it has its ups and downs, but any of our foster carers would tell you the rewards are tremendous. If the idea interests you, please look into it. Keeping children safe and happy and giving them hope for the future, is really the most important thing we can do. w

For more information about fostering, visit dorsetforyou.com/fostering or call 0800 195 9654.

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We want to hear from you

Are you a foster carer in Dorset? Or have you been a foster carer in the past? Tell us about your experience and the positive impact you feel you may have made to a young life. Email the editor helen.stiles@archant.co.uk.

Toni Coombs

Toni Coombs is Dorset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People. She plays a key role in shaping council policy on fostering, adoption and children’s social care.

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