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Essex County Council highlights the life-changing role of male carers this Father’s Day

Health / Fri 7th Jun 2024 at 10:34am

THIS Father’s Day, Essex County Council is encouraging men to consider fostering in light of the positive, lasting impact that foster dads can have on vulnerable children in care.

Essex County Council has just over 500 foster carers supporting vulnerable children across the county.

Helen Lincoln, Executive Director for Children and Families, and Education, said: “We are celebrating the vital role of male carers in the lives of young people this Father’s Day. They are role models for children in care, providing a strong support network and encouraging them to pursue their future aspirations. Many single male carers foster alongside their day job, while others foster full-time.”

Mike from Wickford has been a primary foster carer since 2005, after his wife, Kate, passed away. They had been looking after for 10-year-old Tasha at the time, and Mike decided to take over as primary foster carer so that Tasha could continue living with his two daughters.

Mike said: “I’m so pleased that I made the decision to continue fostering. At the time, Tasha had no family and no one else to turn to. The girls were all similar ages, between 10 and 13, so they got on really well, and they grew up together – they went on holiday together and had the same things in common.

“It’s a lovely feeling that you’ve promoted that friendship and it’s grown so that Tasha is part of the family now. I raised Tasha as my own, and my daughters are her sisters.

“All three girls have now grown up. My two daughters work in London and live with their partners, while Tasha lives in Wickford with her partner, two daughters and son, so I see them regularly. To this day, Tasha calls me ‘dad’. Her children call me ‘grandad’, which is really special. I’ve been there for most of Tasha’s life and I’m still the one she calls.”

Speaking about her time growing up in foster care, Tasha said: “Growing up with the family was lovely, and I had such a strong support network. To this day, we are one big happy family, and I’m still really close with Mike.

“Mike raised me like his own daughter. I have three children with my partner, and Mike is such a support to us all. I’m always ringing him, whether for help or just a general chat. He’s still there for me.

“I don’t call Mike my ‘foster dad’ – he’s my dad.”

In 2011, Mike left his day job to become a full-time foster carer. He has fostered teenage boys ever since.

“There is a shortage of carers for this age group, but it works for me as a single male carer – we enjoy going places together, like the football.

“I’m an avid Southend supporter and, when the boys first come to me, they are usually supporters of the bigger clubs, like Chelsea or Manchester United. They bring all the flags and scarves with them. But by the time they’ve been living with me for a while, they are hardened Southend supporters! I think it’s the atmosphere of it all – the cheering, and the pre-match burger and chips.”

Reflecting on the importance of offering a safe, supportive home to vulnerable young people, Mike said: “The children who come to you have often lost their way – they’ve experienced trauma and disappointment and there’s often a lot of mistrust there. I try to engage with them more at their level – I never talk down to them, never raise my voice, and I think that helps them feel heard and valued.

“To other men who are considering fostering as a single carer, I’d say go for it. Fostering teenagers is so rewarding. It’s not always an easy ride to start with but if you can continue to offer support and care, you can help them to turn their life around and give them a good future. It’s really rewarding to see the end result.

“They’re all good kids, they just need someone to be there for them. It’s the trauma that they’ve been through that causes them to struggle. If you can show them that you’re there for them, and a good person, you can help them through it and onto a happier future.”

Everyone is welcome to learn more about fostering and how it could fit into their lifestyle. Visit www.essex.gov.uk/foster or call 0800 801 530 to find out more.

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