Oxford foster carer inspires others with an ‘open mind and open heart’
Susan Hannon from Oxford has been fostering children with Oxfordshire County Council for 35 years and wants to encourage others to “give it a try”.
As part of Foster Care Fortnight (9-22 May) a campaign is being launched to bring people into a profession that Susan has been part of since way back in 1987.
Susan is a single carer with two children of her own. They were aged 10 and 16 when she began. They are now adults with their own children.
She said: “To be a foster carer, I would say you need to be a patient person. You need to have a calm manner; and a relaxed, welcoming, and safe home environment. You certainly need an open mind and open heart. It will take time to get to know the child you foster. You must live with and experience them for who they are to truly help them.”
Susan has fostered both long term and short term. She has also offered emergency care, which is caring for children at very short notice just for a few days. Most of the young people she fosters have additional needs.
Looking back at how she got started she said: “My son had a friend at school whose parents were foster carers, and this prompted me to enquire. I met with a social worker and was approved in 1987.
“I love to take the children on holidays: Denmark, Disney Florida, Jamaica, Disney Paris, and many UK trips. All children deserve a holiday and I love seeing the excitement on their faces when they experience these adventures. I don’t mind being forgotten; I just want them to have some nice memories from their childhood.”
As well as the daily care, foster carers provide opportunities and support to help the children develop a positive relationship with their birth family and this is something Susan finds particularly rewarding.
A parent of a child that Susan cares for says: “I can't praise or thank Susan enough with words. Personally, I am learning so much about my daughter’s needs and how to handle situations.
“Whereas before I would have been out of my depth but thanks to Susan, I am starting to actually learn to understand her and her thinking, which means I am on the right path to achieving my goal of being more than a father but actually becoming her dad.”
In summary Susan’s simple message to anyone in two minds about fostering is:
“You don’t know until you try – that’s one of my mottos I use with children. So, if you’re thinking about fostering, contact the council and ask for more information.”
Oxfordshire County Council foster carers receive:
- A welcome payment of £1,500, to help make the transition to foster carer.
- Generous fees, paid in addition to the child’s allowance, based on experience and skills.
- Dedicated social worker support.
- Access to professionals involved with the child/children, linked with support groups and specialised training.
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