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A social worker dispels myths around fostering

A social worker is keen to dispel myths which may be preventing residents from becoming foster carers.

Steve Butcher, an assessing social worker from Merton council's fostering recruitment team said: "It is a myth that we are looking for 'perfect families'. If you've had trauma in your own life, or you've been bereaved, you could use your experience to support children who may be going through something similar. A common misconception is that children come into foster care because of difficult behaviour but they are often in care because of problems at home, for example, there may have been domestic violence or drug abuse."

There is plenty of support available, right from the start. Every prospective foster parent is required to complete a three-and-a-half-day training course, as part of the application process. Mr Butcher said: "This prepares you for some of the challenges you may face. It is also an opportunity for you to decide whether fostering is right for you and your family."

Applications to become a foster carer are welcomed from all sections of the community. Personal attributes are more important than the educational background, marital status or sexual orientation of potential foster carers.

Mr Butcher said: "We are looking for people who are calm and patient and have the ability to relate well to children and young people. A sense of humour is also important. You don't need to be a parent but you do need to demonstrate an aptitude for relating to young people."

Each foster parent is assigned a social worker, who visits their home regularly to provide, support, guidance and practical information. Each fostered child also has their own social worker who is in frequent contact with the family. Extra support is just a phone call away with a 24-hour helpline run by Merton council.

There is currently a shortage of foster carers in Merton for siblings and teenagers which could simply be down to another misunderstanding. Mr Butcher said: "Try to see behind the stereotype you read about in the newspapers and you will find a person. A lot of people think that teenagers are trouble but many of our foster carers tell us that looking after teenagers is easier than caring for a baby who won't sleep."

To find out more about fostering a child, visit: www.merton.gov.uk/fostering

Call: 0800 073 0874 or 020 8545 4070 or email fostering@merton.gov.uk