|Myth busting with the Patel’s
Jean Lowe, Yusef Patel and Farida Patel.
New research published by Action for Children last week (Monday 9 September) found that the myths around who can foster are threatening to cause a fostering crisis in the UK with a shortage of 9,000 foster carers this year.
Yusef and Farida Patel from Abram were all too familiar with these myths, until they became foster carers two and half years ago.
Practicing Muslims, the Patel’s were concerned that their faith might affect their chances of finding a ‘match.’
The couple’s social worker, Jean Lowe explains:
“When we receive a referral for a placement for a child or siblings, we aim to ‘match’ the children with carers who will best understand their background and needs. We look at ethnicity, identity, culture, age, experience and practical issues. For example, can the carer/s get the child to and from school? Can the carers meet the child’s needs in respect of identity culture, language and religion?
“There may be differences of culture and religion within families, and between parents. Valuing all aspects of a child’s heritage helps the child to be proud of what has been passed on to them.”
Yusef admits that they were worried about the process, stating: “We thought that if people knew we were Asian they might not want us to foster their child. It seems silly now because it’s never been an issue.
Jean added: “Just because you’re Asian doesn’t mean you have to foster Asian children, in fact all of the children that the Patel’s have fostered so far have been white British – putting that myth to bed.”
Fostering children from a Christian background meant the Patel’s had to get to grips with different traditions. As Yusef explains: “We celebrate Christmas, Easter and birthdays - we don’t want the children to miss out on a normal childhood. But at the same time we want them to grow up with a wider understanding of the world and the different cultures and customs. That’s why we encourage them to take part in Eid – they’re learning about our culture like we’re learning about theirs.”
One of the biggest myths stopping people from fostering is the age limit, with over half (54%) of the nation thinking that if you’re over 55 you can’t foster. In Wigan Borough, the majority of foster carers are in fact retired.
Like the majority of the nation, Yusef, who is 62, and Farida, 52, were concerned that their age might affect their application.
Yusef said: “Initially I thought my age would go against me. Something that I’ve learnt is that age doesn’t matter. As long as you’re fit and healthy that’s all that matters.”
Yusef also thinks a lack of awareness is preventing people from applying, commenting: “In the Asian community I think there’s two issues stopping people from applying. Firstly, the fact that it’s pretty common for us to have large families ourselves, leaving very little room or time to even consider fostering, and secondly, not many people realise there’s a need for it.”
But as Jean states: “There is a need for more foster carers in Wigan Borough. At any one time, there are around 30 – 40 children in desperate need of loving home and family in the borough.
“Foster carers are vital to the vulnerable children that come into care. In a stable, secure foster family, children can build their confidence and self-esteem, and therefore reach their potential in life.
“Children in foster care deserve to experience as full a family life as possible, as part of a loving and caring foster family.”
Councillor Susan Loudon, portfolio holder for children and young people at Wigan Council, said:
“As this report highlights, there’s a lot of myths preventing people from applying to become a foster carer.
“We’ve been working hard to dispel some of these myths, through raising awareness of who can foster. In the autumn edition of Borough Life for example, we’ve included an article about fostering in an effort to encourage people to come forward and apply.
“We have around 200 fostering households in the borough at the moment, all of whom are doing a very important job and I’d like to thank them for their dedication and the love and care they give to our children.
“Ensuring that there are enough loving homes for all of our children is a top priority for the council and we will continue to work hard to make this happen.”
If you have room in your home and heart, find out more: www.wigan.gov.uk/fostering