#Chances4Children: Care-experienced woman fronts foster carer drive

Fiona Simpson
Tuesday, August 25, 2020

A foster carer who entered the care system as a child has called on others to consider foster care amid a rise in demand for placements due to Covid-19.

Covid-19 has sparked a decline in potential foster carers. Picture: Adobe Stock
Covid-19 has sparked a decline in potential foster carers. Picture: Adobe Stock

Jo Sherwood, 44, entered the care system aged 12 and had experienced nine foster placements by the time she was 16 before being transferred to a hostel.

After raising two biological children, now aged 27 and 22, Jo signed up to become a foster carer with the National Fostering Group aged 39.

She chose to foster teenage girls and is currently caring for a 16-year-old. 

“I went through a lot of struggles growing up – so I know what it’s like to feel angry and let down by people and I know what effect this can have on a young person’s behaviour, especially during their teens,” Jo said.

“I have come out the other side as a completely different person, and becoming a foster carer myself has given me a sense of purpose – helping others by understanding their needs and underlying issues means my own experiences have not been in vain. I am proud to be a positive role model to the girls I foster by showing them the life they can achieve even if they’ve had a tough start.”

Jo, who is based in Leicester, explained how her own experience helps her to bond with the children she fosters, saying: “I can see life in care through their eyes, put myself in their shoes – when I tell them that I grew up in care too, it’s like a key opening a lock and there’s an instant bond.

“I know how it feels to get out of the social worker’s car and enter somebody else’s house as a foster child - you feel like an invader, you daren’t even ask for a drink. When the girls I foster first arrive I make a point of telling them to have a look in all the cupboards and open any doors they want – ensuring only safe things are accessible - to encourage trust and openness from day one.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked a fall in enquiries for potential foster carers across the sector.

  showed that it received 161 enquiries about fostering from 1 March to 23 April compared to 302 in the same eight-week period the year before – a fall of 47 per cent.

Encouraging those who are able to consider fostering, Jo said: “If you can offer a loving home, patience, empathy and a genuine desire to help a vulnerable young person build a brighter future, then go for it. Put yourself in their shoes, ask yourself how ‘how would I want to be treated’ and get to the bottom of their underlying issues. Knowing that you are changing somebody else’s life for the better is the biggest reward you can get.”

Annie Winter, head of recruitment at National Fostering Group, said, “Some people still have fixed ideas about who can and can’t foster. It is important that there is a wide range of foster carers available at any given time, with different experiences and skill sets, so that the right match can be made when a child is in need of care.”

For more information about becoming a foster carer, visit www.fostercarers.com 

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