Oxford foster carer encourages families to help give children the best start in life
People across Oxfordshire are being encouraged to consider becoming foster carers. The appeal comes from Oxford city resident Samantha Allen, who talks with pride about the babies – and babies with their mothers – she has welcomed into her home over the last 12 years.
Samantha is helping raise awareness of a £1,500 welcome payment introduced for new Oxfordshire foster carers.
Samantha explains: “Everyone has an idea of what fostering involves. But many are surprised when I tell them that, in my case, I’ve also opened my door to the mums along with their babies for the last seven years. My official title when I do this is parent and child carer.
“New mothers face many challenges. They love their newborn, but circumstances might conspire against them. Mental health issues, an insecure or unsafe family environment, or they are under 16 – these are just three examples of where I can make a difference at a vulnerable point in their lives.”
When mother and child step inside, they are immediately welcomed as members of Samantha’s busy household. They have their own bedroom and become an integral part of the family. Samantha has three children: one in sixth form and two in their mid-twenties.
“Everyone I foster is different. They all have unique characteristics,” said Samantha.
“They each have individual challenges. Once I’ve established which areas they need support in we discuss ways in which to help them. Some struggle with telling the time meaning they might miss crucial feeding times.
“I become their teacher in some respects, sharing my experience to help them. We learn together. What works for one mum might not suit the next one. In the case of timekeeping, I’ve tried using charts and alarms. We always get there in the end, and it’s rewarding for both the mum, and for me.”
Samantha also has her own support – Oxfordshire County Council’s social worker, Amy Power.
“Amy’s amazing,” enthuses Samantha. “Sometimes I don’t have the answer to assist the family I’m fostering. On other occasions, I soak up the worries of the mum and I know Amy is only a phone call away to talk things through if I need clarity. It’s a positive circle. I nurture and develop mum for her baby and my social worker is alongside me when I need advice and assistance.”
The most rewarding part of being a foster carer for Samantha is seeing the difference she is making.
Samantha said: “It gives me great pleasure, witnessing day by day a new and struggling mum become a brilliant, confident and competent mother. Watching that special bond flourish between her and her baby.
“Many of the families stay in contact, some regularly, which is fantastic as I can see their babies going from strength to strength. It reminds me why I became a foster carer and why I’m now encouraging other Oxfordshire residents to consider the role.”
Councillor Liz Brighouse, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Youth Services, said: “Samantha beautifully describes the emotional rewards of being a foster carer; knowing that you are instrumental in the child’s development, seeing them grow in confidence.
“There are also financial rewards. It’s a career that pays, plus the addition of a welcome payment of £1,500, introduced to new foster carers at the start of November.
“It’s our aim to place the children we care for locally with Oxfordshire County Council’s foster carers. Keeping children local – and with their mums in the case of parent and child carers – means they maintain friendships and family connections. They continue having access to what’s familiar to them, such as their GP, and professional support.”
Oxfordshire County Council foster carers receive:
- Generous fees, paid in addition to the child’s allowance, based on experience and skills.
- Welcome payment of £1,500, introduced to new foster carers at the start of November.
- Dedicated social worker support.
- Access to professionals involved with the child/children, linked with support groups and specialised training.
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