The Coronavirus crisis has encouraged many people to think about the future and focused their thoughts on how they can help those outside of their immediate family.
This Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from 11-24 May, foster parent Nick Wrench is urging people to think about whether fostering could be a life-changing opportunity for their own future.
Nick, aged 58 from Braintree, has fostered between 30 and 40 young people over the last 16 years; all of which have been teenagers.
“It’s such a positive thing to be working with these teenagers. They have often had many chances taken away from them already and experienced much disappointment. They often crave some stability and routine. I love showing them that there is a better way and instilling some self-worth in them, so they can have a happier life”.
Nick is now encouraging potential foster carers to consider opening their home to older children and young adults. He also wants to bust some of the myths surrounding who can foster.
“As a single parent with foster children aged 14, 17 and 19, and a biological son aged 16, I appreciate that I’m not what most people would consider as a typical foster carer. Yes, it can be incredibly busy at times doing it alone but it’s also extremely rewarding and gives me a sense of purpose. It just shows that those from all walks of life can do it successfully”.
Imogen Halley and her sister went to live with Nick 3 years ago, someone she describes as the nicest person you could ever meet.
“Nick is just so down to earth, kind and calm to absolutely everyone. I turned 19 recently and the message on his card read ‘You’re just like a daughter to me and I’m lucky to have met you’. You have no idea how much that simple sentence meant to me”.
In 2020, up to 500 children in Essex are expected to come into care and Essex County Council is urging more foster carers, like Nick, to help transform their lives.
Foster Care Fortnight highlights the importance of foster carers’ work. More foster carers are needed in Essex on a full and part-time basis for either short or long-term placements with Essex County Council offering high-quality bespoke local training.
Foster carers can be single, married, from a same-sex family or retired and there is an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers. Many go on to make long-term friendships.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council said: “A high proportion of the children who come into foster care are over the age of ten, so we desperately need carers like Nick to help with that age group.
While the world outside might have ground to a standstill because of Coronavirus, life goes on for children and parents in crisis”.
The health crisis has been tough for Imogen as she cannot see her boyfriend and could not celebrate her birthday with friends. She is however still able to do her university course online, studying mental health nursing, and is thankful that restrictions have allowed her to spend more time with Nick and the rest of her family.
Nick uses his own life experiences running a business as an electrical contractor to help shape the support he offers the teenagers he cares for.
“I think it’s important to show our teenagers the many different avenues one can take in life. I have friends who didn’t do so well academically but now have their own successful businesses. It just shows our young people that they may not be flying high in school but there is always something they can do to the best of their abilities”.
It is Nick’s career that has inspired Imogen to go to university, get a job and learn to drive.
“I’ve noticed a lot of stigma around foster children that they’re naughty and hard work, but hopefully my situation shows this isn’t always true. Nick instilled a sense of work ethic in me and gave me plenty of opportunities to get on in life, which I’m very grateful for. I credit this for where I am now. I would say to other foster children that they shouldn’t blame their circumstances for not achieving”.
“It also just goes to show that all types of people can be successful foster carers. Nick holds down a busy job whilst looking after a household full of children and young adults. If you are thinking about applying to be a foster parent, but are concerned you won’t have the time, then please reconsider! There are lots of different options open to you and plenty of support on offer”.
Nick is recommending that anyone thinking about fostering should just pick up the phone and enquire; they may be surprised at just how suitable they are and how much they get back in return.
Find out more by visiting www.essexadoptionandfostering.co.uk/fostering or attending one of the virtual events: https://bit.ly/2zsC7wx The phone line is also still open: 0800 801 530.