|Family encourages carers to foster siblings
An inspirational couple who have fostered 37 children urges others to keep families together during the hardest time in their lives by caring for siblings and children with disabilities.
Pat and Dave Walsh, from Ashton-in-Makerfield, who also have two biological daughters, have been foster carers with Wigan Council for more than twelve years and have been looking after four siblings; Tom (19), Misty (15), Harold (12) and Amelia (10) for eight years.
Despite their previous experiences, the four siblings did not want to be taken into care and were understandably hesitant to build relationships at first.
However, after being welcomed into the fold by Pat and Dave, they have grown in confidence and have blossomed in their care, which Pat also believes is down to the fact they were kept together.
She said: “It’s absolutely imperative that children are kept together. It’s bad enough that they are taken away from their parents, especially when that is all they know and don’t want to be taken into care.
“They need each other more than ever during this time as they truly know what the other has been through and can offer support. It’s comforting for them to still have that family connection.
“I won’t pretend it has been easy. Fostering is a big decision in itself and there is a lot to think about, but the happiness of the children and the difference that could be made to their lives is what is most important to us.
“The council have always been fantastic but I cannot fault the support we’ve received when fostering siblings, especially taking into consideration the troubles the children have faced.”
And although Wigan Council has provided counselling opportunities and specialist visits for the siblings over the years to help, Pat and Dave have also received support, including tips on how to deal with potential outbursts and arranging for the same respite carers to look after the children for two days every six weeks.
Pat continued: “As much as we love the children, it’s great to have a weekend every few weeks to ourselves – as I’m sure every other parent would agree!
“Tom is older and has moved out now, so he doesn’t go but the other three love it and it’s like a little holiday for them. They go to the cinema, bowling or shopping and it really makes all the difference.
“To any current foster carers who haven’t looked after siblings before or to people looking to foster for the first time, I would definitely recommend speaking with Wigan Council as they will tailor the support package to suit you and your family. It’s hard work but there is nothing better than watching children and young people grow into independent adults despite their hardships and knowing you’ve helped.”
James Winterbottom, director for children’s services at Wigan Council said: “We have a shortage of foster carers for sibling groups in the borough and are extremely keen to encourage more people to look after sibling groups and children with disabilities.
“Fostering may seem like a big step but through The Deal for Foster Carers, we pledge to provide training opportunities, out of hours support, respite and much more to ensure that you are able to provide a stable and loving home to children and young people who need it.”
For more information about fostering with Wigan Council, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/fostering.