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Foster care fortnight

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A dedicated Harlow couple who have opened their home to vulnerable children are supporting Essex County Council’s bid to find 100 more foster carers following the launch of Foster Care Fortnight.

It was staged at the council’s Chelmsford headquarters, supported by dedicated foster carers like Jess and Dan Ricketts who were on hand to share their rewarding experiences with potential new foster parents.

This week, the council is urging younger parents with their own children at home to see if they have room in their lives for more. People like the Ricketts.

They, along with seven-year-old daughter Rachel, have first-hand experience helping to transform the lives of children and are supporting Essex County Council’s drive to find more foster carers.

Foster Care Fortnight is the annual awareness campaign run by UK charity the Fostering Network. Essex County Council is staging a number of information events where foster carers like Jess and Dan will be present to speak to anyone who is interested in finding out more information.

In the first week the Council is especially calling out to younger parents who love family life and who could make a difference to another child’s life; and to people whose children have grown up and left home and who want to give back.

For the past 18 months, the Ricketts have been respite foster carers. They have fostered six children, from toddlers to siblings, from a single night to 15 days. One child stays for a weekend every month.

“It’s been rewarding but exhausting!” said Jess, 36, a special educational needs (SEN) teacher. “But we have no regrets. To know you’ve made a real difference is very rewarding.”

The couple chose to foster after a suggestion from friends who had just adopted. In addition, a difficult first birth for Jess resulted in them deciding against having further children. Jess and Dan now foster through the council’s Fostering Service, which is seeing the number of children requiring a home growing steadily.

Jess has been particularly struck by the positive effects on Rachel. “Our family has grown enormously and it’s given her the chance to be the sibling she’s always desperately wanted to be. She’s gone from being an only child to having what she calls her foster siblings.”

Despite the short-term care, Jess and Dan, 35, always form strong emotional bonds with their foster children. Jess said: “You can’t help but get attached to them. You give everything you’ve got while you’ve got them. Some we know we’ll see again. Some we know we won’t. You do become invested in them and want the best outcomes for them.

“For anyone considering the role, you need a good heart and a willingness to open your doors. Go along to recruitment events with an open mind and listen to your gut instinct.”

There are now around 750 children in foster care in Essex and this number has been increasing for the past two years. In addition, the rate of children leaving care has slowed down, bringing into sharp focus the need to recruit more foster carers for children of all ages, siblings and children with disabilities.

Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said: “Children only get one childhood. We need compassionate, capable foster parents urgently to help change children’s lives. Please consider whether you have room for another child in your home and life, they need you.”

Corrie Castleman, Fostering Team Manager at Essex County Council, said: “We need more people to welcome a child into their family as every vulnerable child in Essex needs, and deserves, a safe, supportive and fun-loving home to inspire our children to become well-adjusted young adults that can positively contribute to society.

“You could make a difference to a child’s life. Please contact our friendly team to answer any concerns you may have. Don’t just think you will not be suitable or needed.”

To talk to people like the Ricketts and find out about some of the children you could help, call 0800 801 530, visit or attend a Drop-In Fostering Information Event at the Latton Bush Centre, Harlow on Saturday 28 September, 11am to 1pm.


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Posted on 24/04/2019