Foster homes urgently sought for children and young people in Ayrshire

A leading Scottish independent foster care provider is urgently looking for foster homes for dozens of children and young people currently in local authority care in North, South and East Ayrshire.

FCA Scotland, which has its regional office located at Skye Road, Shawfarm in Prestwick, has launched the appeal following a notable increase in local authority referrals from children and young people waiting for a secure and nurturing fostering home in 2017.

Jo Derrick, director of FCA Scotland, said: “Many people would love to foster but they believe that their personal circumstances, or skills and experience, would prevent them from doing so. Whether you’re single, over 50, childless, or in a same sex relationship, fostering could be for you, and we want to dispel the myths that may prevent potential foster carer’s from making that first enquiry.

“Our office in Prestwick ensures that we’re able to provide local support services for our carers in Ayrshire without them having to travel too far as our specialist fostering team are always available for face-to-face chats. People are often surprised by how much support and training is available and this is a key driver for many people coming forward and becoming a foster carer with FCA Scotland. If you have a spare room in your home you could potentially foster!”

Foster carers with FCA Scotland receive frequent visits and contact from a multi-disciplinary team of staff dedicated to help carers meet the needs of the child or young person, as well as ongoing training, a financial allowance, access to carer support groups and organised family activities.

Billy and Mary Black from Irvine in Ayrshire have been foster carers with FCA Scotland for 11 years. The couple, who currently foster three children, are keen to encourage others to enquire about becoming a foster carer. Mary said: “For us it has been a challenging and exciting journey and we feel that we are doing something worthwhile with our lives and particularly for the children in our lives. The longer you do the job, the more experienced and skilled you become, helping you to overcome the challenges quicker.

“When a child first comes to you, give it time as it can take time for them to settle down. Don’t expect anything from them, they are normally wee lost souls who have lived a hard and chaotic life and are looking for a safe and loving family. It takes a lot of time to build trust and acceptance and this can only be done by using available resources, and providing patience, caring and love.

“There is a massive demand to find homes for children in Scotland and we would encourage anyone interested in offering a safe and loving home to a child to think seriously about how they could help.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about fostering can meet up with the FCA Scotland team at their office on Skye Road, Shawfarm in Prestwick or call 0141 646 4805 and speak to the FCA Scotland Recruitment Team. More information about forthcoming regional events are available on the website www.thefcascotland.co.uk

Bill and Mary Black, Irvine

Case study: Bill and Mary Black, Irvine, Ayrshire

“By fostering we are doing something worthwhile with our lives, and particularly for the children in our lives”

Billy (56) and Mary (61) Black from Irvine in Ayrshire have been foster carers with Foster Care Associates (FCA) Scotland for 11 years.  With the huge demand to find foster homes for hundreds of children and young people in Scotland the couple, who currently foster three children, talk about their fostering journey and encourage others to enquire about becoming a foster carer.

Talking about how they began their journey Mary said:  “When Billy and I first met, , we both had children from previous marriages and we wondered what it would be like raising children together, that was when we first started to think about fostering.  We had led quite a privileged life and wanted to give something back

“Billy had worked fulltime in the leisure industry for over 25 years, but was looking for a career change when he came across an advert for foster carers in the jobs page of the local newspaper.  He phoned FCA Scotland who invited us to attend an information event and we were very impressed with the presentation and the speakers.  We were excited about the prospect of fostering and agreed it was something we wanted to do as we felt we had a lot we could offer a child.  There was only the two of us in a large three-bedroom house, so we had two spare bedrooms and a lot more to offer.  

“We agreed that Billy should be the main foster carer whilst I continued to work full-time in housing – a career that lasted until December 2014 when I also decided to retire to become a full-time foster carer.  We have since extended our home to a four bedroom house and have a sibling group of three children as part of our fostering family.”    

Talking about the support provided by their family and friends Mary said:  “Our birth children have always been extremely supportive and involved, as has the rest of our wider family, who all treat our foster children as part of their family.   Initially they did ask us if we had thought it through but we felt we had and that we had obtained all the information required to make our decision.

“Friends and people we meet in general are normally very positive, supportive and commend us for what we are doing and there are some who show an interest in becoming foster carers themselves and we offer lots of information and advice to them.”

Mary and Billy have experienced caring for many different placement types during their 11 years of fostering, and embrace the support and training provided to them by FCA.  Mary said:  “We are registered as short-term and respite carers and have cared for babies, toddlers, through to teenagers – some have stayed for a couple of days and others have stayed longer, our longest placement being seven years.    There are many challenges in meeting the needs of foster children.  Children come to us from all different backgrounds with emotional and attachment needs, each child is individual and it is our place to provide for their needs and advocate on their behalf.  This is where FCA can offer a lot of assistance – you’re not left to do it on your own.

“Throughout over a decade of fostering we have received extensive training, which has given us the knowledge and skills to help children to develop their full potential and give them opportunities they otherwise would not have had, and to feel included, respected and part of a family.   Monthly meetings, training and regular carer support groups give us the opportunity to meet with other carers and specialist staff to discuss the individual child’s needs as well as the broader issues of fostering.

“In fact training has been key to our success and Billy has gone on to achieve his NVQ Level 3 in Health and Social Care and has become a training instructor working with other carers, as well as previously being a carer rep to represent the voice of other FCA carers in Scotland.” 

Reflecting on their time as fosters carers the couple recall some stand out moments that they will remember for life.  Mary said:  “For Billy one of his best fostering moments was when our eight year old foster son attended an FCA team building day at Lochwinnoch.  This involved the children building a raft, carrying logs, tying them together and then eventually sailing them on the loch.  To see this wee boy get involved for the first time, the excitement on his face and the ultimate feeling of achievement after helping to create his own raft was priceless.  For me, it’s the small things, like hearing the kids that have come to us distressed, feeling alone and lost, singing happily in the shower, and when you meet a child you have provided care for and they coming running up to you excitedly and throw their arms round you – that makes it all worthwhile.”

Mary offers some valuable advice to those thinking about becoming a foster carer.  She said: “Do plenty of research and get all the facts before making your decision.   Ensure you will receive the support, training and development you need to support children with various needs.  Attend the information days, ask questions, and speak to other carers.   It is a very challenging job but also very worthwhile and rewarding.    The rewards far outweigh the challenges.

“When a child first comes to you, give it time as it can take time for them to settle down.   Don’t expect anything from them, they are normally wee lost souls who have lived a hard and chaotic life and are looking for a safe and loving family.    It takes a lot of time to build trust and acceptance and this can only be done by using available resources, and providing patience, caring and love.       

Concluding Mary urges others in Scotland to take that first step about enquiring to become a foster carer.  She said:  “For us it has been a challenging and exciting journey and we feel that we are doing something worthwhile with our lives and particularly for the children in our lives.  The longer you do the job, the more experienced and skilled you become, helping you to overcome the challenges quicker.

“There is a massive demand to find homes for children in Scotland and we would encourage anyone interested in offering a safe and loving home to a child to think seriously about how they could help.”