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We ‘paws’ to recognise the vital contribution of pets in our foster families

Foster Carers, Mockingbird,

Foster care Ruth's spaniel Lola who helps children in their care settle in

Foster Portsmouth ran a competition for its foster families throughout April’s National Pet Month. Foster carers were asked to nominate the, often indispensable, members of their fostering households for the contribution they make in supporting and welcoming the children in their care into their homes.

 

Foster carer Ruth, owner of competition winner Lola, shared: “Lola is the most amazing dog with all foster children. She takes her role as ‘nanny’ very seriously and likes to comfort any new, younger children who need the extra nurturing, helping them feel safe and secure when they need it most. She will put any younger children to bed if she senses they need a little cuddle and someone to be by their side. She adores children and playing with them.”

 

The 12-year-old boy who has been fostered by Ruth and husband Glen for the past three years added: “Lola is ‘flooffy’ and cute, she likes to give loads of cuddles and is playful too, and she makes me happy if I feel sad. When I first lived here she would come and give me a cuddle as I tried to get to sleep as I wasn’t used to sleeping in a room by myself.”

 

Ruth continued: “Lola is a fantastic football player, taking the role of defence, and is not scared of going in for a tackle to get the ball. She also plays cricket where she fields and takes the ball back to the bowler, and will be ball girl in a game of tennis.”

 

“She is an incredibly intuitive and gentle creature, who is adored by all our foster children. She is always there to greet you as you walk in the door and make you feel at home, and put a smile on your face. She is never grumpy or in a bad mood, and brings the household together to make us a family.”

 

The competition results were announced as part of the run up to Foster Care Fortnight (13-26 May). This year’s theme for Foster Care Fortnight is ‘fostering moments’, providing an opportunity for us to celebrate some of the special moments our foster carers create for the children in their care, their own families and for themselves, including those involving their beloved pets.

 

National Pet Month celebrates pet ownership, sharing the many benefits of our cherished companions. The campaign aims to raise awareness including making people aware of the benefits of living with pets and the value companion animals can add to those in need, including in a therapeutic sense. We’ve discovered many of our foster carer’s pets act in this capacity for the children in their care.

 

Foster carer Dave's cat Jack who helps children in his care settle in

 

One of our competition runner ups was a beautiful black cat called Jack. At just a year old, Jack is described as a ‘very mischievous chap, bright eyed and handsome who likes exploring indoors and out’. The 13-year-old young person fostered with Jack’s humans Dave and Angela said: “Jack keeps me calm. I like to stroke him and I love him so much.” The couple’s 15-year-old fostered young person added: “Jack brings the family together.” Dave confirmed: “Jack is welcoming and inquisitive, and wants to get to know you. Having a pet is a lovely icebreaker when welcoming children and young people.”

 

Foster carer Sue's dog Ffion who helps children in her care settle in

 

Our other runner up, foster carer Sue’s 3-year-old Pembrokeshire Corgi Ffion, joined their fostering team just after lockdown. Sue shared: “When Ffion was a puppy, our foster child helped me train her. She has been very popular with all our children, bonding with them. She gives them pleasure, a sense of belonging helping to care for her, and to feel a part of the family.”

 

Cllr Suzy Horton, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member of Children, Families and Education at Portsmouth City Council, commented:

 

“The National Pet Month competition has given us a wonderful opportunity to recognise another member of many fostering households; the pets of foster carers. They are yet another example of the unsung heroes that make up foster families and provide a loving, caring home for vulnerable children from our city.”

 

“I’d like to take this opportunity to not only congratulate the winner, runners up and honourable mentions for their well-deserved rewards, but also to thank all the pets, foster carers and every member of their household and extended family for the contribution they all make to changing the lives of children and young people.”

 

Honourable mentions from the competition included Mylo, Percy, Luna and Ralph.

 

Aly, 3-year-old spaniel Mylo’s human, reported that he: “…loves balls and squeaky toys. Our nine and 14-year-old boys love Mylo greeting them with a toy and a wiggle when they come home. One also likes to play football with him. Other children (from our Mockingbird constellation) always ask if they can come and see him.”

 

Foster care Aly's dog Mylo who helps children in her care settle in         Foster carer Mandy's cat Percy who helps children in her care settle in

 

Foster carer Mandy’s cat 13-year-old Percy is ‘very chilled’. Mandy shared: “His favourite place is on my bed and I’m fine with that we can chill together. Having a pet can help young people settle into a new placement. They don’t judge and are happy to see you.”

 

Alsatian Luna is described by foster carer Rachel E as ‘crazy and fun’ and she protects the home she and Rachel share with the three male teens she cares for.

 

Foster carer Rachel E's dog Luna who helps the young people in her care settle in         Foster carer Rachel D's dog Ralph who helps children in her care settle in

 

Ralph really helps children and young people settle in with foster carers James and Rachel D. Rachel shared: “Ralph is very friendly and loves to snuggle with the children in our care. They love his teeth and think he is a real cutie. There are huge benefits of having pets as part of a foster family and often children will ask to see him. Ralph is an excellent way to promote exercise and often children will run alongside him on his walks.”

 

One little 6-year-old boy who stayed with James and Rachel for three months and who now comes back for regular respite recently said: “Poor old Ralph. He smells like the warty pigs at Marwell Zoo!” Rachel told us that the name really stuck and Ralph is now also known as Warty Pig or Mr Wart!

 

It was an incredibly close competition. In fact, it had to be put to a vote to ensure the winner and runners up could be identified at all because all the entrants were so worthy and incredibly cute! Foster Portsmouth have loved getting to know all these fluffy family members and learning of the impact they’ve all had on fostering family life.

 

All of the entrants were stars in our eyes and make a huge difference to the lives of the children in the care of our foster carers. The winner of the competition won a £30 voucher and the two runners up a £20 voucher each at their choice of Vue Cinemas or Pizza Express. However, most importantly, to go some way to say thank you to these hard working and adorable members of our fostering community in Portsmouth and the surrounding areas, we will also be sending a treat bag to the winner, each of the runners up and, all four honourable mentions to enjoy.

 

Our foster carers come from all walks of life, and they all share the same commitment and motivation to make a positive difference to a child’s life. Foster Portsmouth welcomes all enquiries about fostering regardless of age, gender, faith, ethnicitysexualitymarital, residential or work status.

 

There are many types of fostering and everyone will be able to find one that’s the right fit for them.  This could be a short or long-term arrangement until they’re ready to live independently or be reunited with family, support for unaccompanied children seeking safety and asylum or children with a disability, supported lodgings to develop their independent living skills, a parent and baby placement, or respite care.

 

We offer our foster carers competitive, recently increased fees and allowances for the children in their care, a bespoke training programme and 24/7 support, access to the award-winning Mockingbird model of care, discounts and benefits, social activities, and free membership to The Fostering Network.

 

For more details, join us at one of our community events: www.foster.portsmouth.org.uk/events, Alternatively to arrange a 1:1 with one of our experienced team or existing foster carers to to get your questions answered, please contact us.

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