Fostering service calls for Peterborough ‘empty nesters’ to provide homes for vulnerable young people

Peterborough’s fostering service is seeking ‘empty nesters’ whose children have left home for university to provide homes for vulnerable young people.

Fostering a child or young person is being offered by the service as a common solution both to children and young people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who are unable to continue living with their birth families and to parents who may be experiencing ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’, a common condition which can occur when birth children move out of their parents’ house.

Some of the signs that a parent has developed ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ once their children have left home include:

· Loss of purpose

· Lack of control

· Sadness

· Loneliness

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The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fostering Service approached Valerie (59), a divorced mother-of-three who has been a Foster Carer for the past four years, to discuss how fostering has helped her cope with her children spreading their wings.

“My daughters both live with each of their partners,” Valerie said. “My middle child, home from university, asked me if I had ever thought about fostering. They all thought I would have much to offer.”

Valerie had previously dismissed fostering without fully exploring it as an option for herself. As a divorced single mum, she thought Foster Carers needed to be settled, married couples, allowing one foster parent to stay at home to care for the children while the other worked full time – and hadn’t realised that Foster Carers were paid.

Chatting with one of her many friends who have adopted children, the subject of fostering came up again.

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“My friend has two adopted sons and two very different experiences of Foster Carers,” Valerie continued. “She asked me if I had ever considered fostering, as she thought I could make a positive difference to children’s lives.”

Spurred on by encouraging reactions from her other close friends, Valerie began to make enquiries – but not before broaching the subject once more with her birth children.

“My middle child assured me that she loves me very much, but never wanted to live with me again,” Valerie explained. “She said I should pack up and use her room – the largest in the house, which was easy to convert into a twin room.”

With her children’s blessing, Valerie made enquiries with the local authority. Once a Social Worker had visited her house and met with her birth children, Valerie was cleared to submit her application; four and a half months later, her assessment process was complete.

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Valerie is now approved to foster children and young people aged from birth to eighteen years old, sibling and non-sibling groups, and can also provide time limited, emergency and respite care. She credits the Fostering Service for their “exemplary” support and understanding.

Valerie currently provides care to three young people, one of whom is now attending university herself.

“She came to stay as a seven-night emergency – and that was about 20 months ago!” Valerie said. “The professional team agreed that we were a safe home for her, and she wanted to ‘Stay Put’, and I was in a position to offer this for her.”

Valerie cites a willingness to learn new things, such as ways of managing behaviours that are different from those which had worked with birth children, as a key quality for a Foster Carer.

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“You also need to have a reasonable expectation of yourself and the children you’re caring for, as well as diplomacy skills,” she added. “You need to maintain relationships with all other professionals involved in the team around the child and birth family.”

Councillor Lynne Ayres, Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for children’s services said: “Carers like Valerie whose children still support their decision to foster even when they have themselves left home gives us a great deal of hope. Please consider fostering if your children have flown the nest.”

When you foster with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fostering Service, you will receive:

generous allowances and carer perks

An individualised training programme tailored to your needs

round the clock support

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a dedicated skilled and experienced Supervising Social Worker

If you’re compassionate, resilient, over 21 years of age, have a spare bedroom, and above all think you have all the qualities and skills to become a Foster Carer visit the Cambridgeshire or Peterborough Fostering website, call 0800 052 0078 or text FOSTERING to 60777.