Celebrating 25 Years of Fostering and the Launch of New Offices in Chatham

At our snug little office here at PT we are cocooned from some of the harsh realities that face many others in the world. The sun shines through the windows and nice people call us up to sell their sofa or advertise their skills as a fully apprenticed treacle sculptor.

new 320But even in and around some of the quiet rural and urban roads and cul-de-sacs that we take for granted, there are children facing some real challenges in their young lives. We attended the opening of the new office of Next Step Fostering in Chatham and discovered a large number of people there ready and waiting to do all they could to remove this type of burden from young shoulders.

I asked about the need for such a service and apparently and even quite shockingly it is not unusual for need to outstrip supply and in talking to other members of staff, in very general terms of the routes that bring children to them, there is a very real need for the work these people do.

Children come into this world entirely innocent and a few find themselves in a place full of addiction problems, relationship breakdowns and even abuse and it’s people like those in Next Step Fostering that are there to come to the rescue when required.
Again, talking to more of the people that work there it is clear that they not only want the best outcomes for the children, they want the best for the foster carers too. There is a huge amount of training given, before, during and after you begin as a foster parent. It is rarely going to be an easy road but it can be very rewarding at a personal level. We spoke to one couple that had fostered a young child who they watched grow into a terrific young man. Once he had gained confidence in his new environment he settled down, did well at school eventually going on to university to complete a degree.

new 322It is never too late to turn the life around of someone that has been a victim of circumstance and it is an extremely valuable and rewarding roll to play. It is the ultimate responsibility, you are nurturing the future of a person and who knows what they may accomplish. A quick search on the internet will show you fifteen to twenty well known people that have gone on to do many good things. From Steve Jobs to Pierce Brosnan have all been with foster carers at some point in their lives.

A few words from Next Step Fostering follow ;

Next Step Fostering was established 25 years ago from the family home deep in the Kent countryside where Director, Lesley Ward grew up. Lesley’s parents were foster carers and together they shared their home with the various children and young people her family looked after. ‘In those days young people were leaving care at 15 and living in bed and breakfasts,’ she explains. ‘They were ill equipped and had no support, so we wanted to extend their time with families – that’s how the organisation came into being’.

With an estimated 67,000 children in the care system in the UK (50,000 of whom are in foster care), agencies such as Next Step always need new carers. Lesley comments ‘I don’t know of any career where you get back more than you put in. Children in care can get a bad press but we strive to challenge this as we recognise that a child is a child not just a statistic.”

A crucial function is supporting foster carers. ‘Trust is key,’ says Lesley. ‘We build strong relationships with our families to ensure we meet their needs as well as the children’s’. When placing a child with a family, consideration is given to age, gender, ethnicity, school location, culture and background. Next Step Fostering aims to place children with families that share religious or cultural identities but priority is given to the child’s needs or behaviour, and the immediacy of them being looked after.

Our 25 year anniversary coincides with the launch of our new Medway office at 85 High Street, Chatham. If you think you could be a foster carer contact us on 0845 603 8354 or 01634 838666, email: info@nextstepfostering.org or visit http://www.nextstepfostering.org.