Essex couple, Debbie and Gary, urge residents to become foster carers
While thousands of parents and guardians were waving off their young adults to University last month, for Debbie and Gary Barker they faced the same milestone in their foster son James’ life last year.
Essex County Council is today urging more people like Debbie and Gary to consider becoming foster carers. By providing a safe and nurturing environment, Essex foster carers are enabling young people to reach their full potential. For some, that may be giving them stability to concentrate on their studies, and for others, it can be instilling confidence in them to pursue their own happiness.
Debbie and Gary from Braintree, who have been fostering for seven years, credit their life experience to helping their foster children, many who have had a traumatic start in life, to develop into young adults. Together they helped them to reach their potential and transform their lives.
Gary says: “Being foster carers does take resilience; you must be prepared to put in the time, be firm when you must, and have an open mind. However, watching a young person grow and develop, seeing them progress from how they were the day they came to you, is so rewarding.
“When a foster child walks into your home, they can often come with a lot of past traumas, you can’t expect to heal them straight away. It takes time to see them develop as a person.
“There can be challenges along the way but seeing those small differences over the years shows you that you are making a difference. You take the good with the bad, like you would with your own children.”
One of their foster children, James, has been with them for eight years. They showed James that they cared for him, and they worked to build a trusting relationship. Now James is going into his second year of university to study business and finance.
James says: “When I first arrived, I’d been in the care system for 6 years and needed a lot of emotional support. Debbie and Gary put in the time to help me and took an interest in what I was doing. These small things made such a difference to my life.
“I went from nearly failing my GCSEs to getting a 1st in my first year of university. I honestly couldn’t have done that without Gary and Debbie’s support.
“As a foster child moving home is always an upheaval emotionally and mentally, but as soon as I arrived at Gary and Debbie’s, I was immediately made to feel a part of the family.
"They treated their foster children like their own children, they involved me in everything they did, and I also got on well with their biological children.
“I knew that I was cared for, they treated me with respect and set standards for me to do well in my studies and in my life. These standards, and a new confidence to achieve, helped me push myself harder, especially after nearly failing my GCSEs. With Gary and Debbie’s support I put in the effort I needed to get where I am today."
Foster carers can be single, married, from a same-sex family or retired. There is also an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers with many going on to make long-term friendships. Essex County Council offers high-quality bespoke local training to all foster carers and provides ongoing support.
Cllr Beverley Egan, Cabinet Member for Children Services and Early Years, said: “Our foster carers help build better, brighter futures for hundreds of children across Essex every year. We desperately need more people, like Debbie and Gary, to foster on a full and part-time basis for either short or long-term placements. We have a particular need for foster carers who can support older children over age 10 and children with disabilities”.
For more information visit Fostering on our website or call 0800 801 530