The end of May saw two of our dedicated carers pass the hugely significant and spectacular milestone of 30-years providing Supported Lodgings.
Maria (63) & Rob Cross (64), who live in Fratton, have provided care for over 30 vulnerable young people from Portsmouth over the past three decades. These young people – who have been in need of emotional support, encouragement and a safe, secure place to live – have often voiced that they’ve not wanted to leave the loving home Maria and Rob have provided them.
“Two of our young people, now in their 30s, actually still live with us. They both came to us at 16, which was the age you could have them from then, and they’ve never left,” Maria shared with us on the day of their milestone anniversary.
The couple’s social worker, Claire – who presented Maria on the day with a letter of appreciation from the Head of Service Michelle Sanders on behalf of everyone at Portsmouth City Council and Foster Portsmouth, and a voucher for their favourite restaurant so they could treat themselves a little – added “No one wants to leave!”
Maria and Rob initially started caring for young people by providing rooms for the students from foreign language schools. They then moved on to providing Supported Lodgings for 18-24 year-olds with Foster Portsmouth. Alongside this, they later also became ‘connected person’ carers for a little girl whose mother they had cared for under a Supported Lodgings arrangement. This led to them providing respite care for her brother too to help support his main foster carer.
“We used to also provide respite day care for a deaf 3-year-old Lego loving little boy with Foster Portsmouth’s Family Link scheme. I was able to connect with him and enjoyed our time together. Since then, we’ve concentrated on providing Supported Lodgings.”
Maria added, “Both of my sisters have also been carers, one fostered a sibling for her local authority and ended up adopting a sibling group that she cared for, and the other became a Supported Lodgings carer with Foster Portsmouth through our experience.”
Supported Lodgings is an arrangement whereby a young person aged 18-24 – in need of emotional support, encouragement and a safe, secure place to live – shares your home. This could be a someone who is finding living alone challenging or a little overwhelming, is unable to remain with family, is in need of somewhere more stable to live, is a young asylum seeker, or is a care leaver who requires a place to stay as a stepping stone to adulthood.
Although similar to fostering, this life changing scheme differs in that the young people have a degree of independence and can usually make their own way to college, training or employment. This can allow for work commitments and offer a more flexible, yet equally rewarding, way of supporting vulnerable young people in the Portsmouth area who need support to learn to live independently.
Maria has gained huge experience with children and young people as a mother, grandmother and throughout her 34-year career as a dinner lady and now as a school cleaner at St. John’s school. Rob’s career has also taken him from lorry driving to a cleaner over the 30 years. However, Maria said they originally started caring as, “we had some time on our hands and it enables us to do a bit of everything.”
As well as their current two Supported Lodgings young people, one 18-year-old girl and another 19-year-old boy, and the two still living with them, the couple also have one of their own adult daughters living at home. Their walls are adorned with loving family photographs which also include their other two daughters and six grandchildren, and their playful dogs Coco and Jax ran around our feet welcoming us to this busy, loving home on the day of the anniversary.
“We have a set routine as we believe youngsters thrive on it. Each of them do things like tidying their own rooms and strip their own beds. They also all take it in turn to walk the dogs.”
Supported Lodgings carers assist with young people’s transition from home or being in care to living independently. They help them build confidence and assist with the development of everyday practical skills to prepare them for adult life including applying for work, training or education, accessing benefits and attending appointments, budgeting and building a support network.
They help them learn how to complete simple household tasks such as cleaning, washing and healthy cooking, and in time they help them find a home of their own.
Maria explained that when the young people are ready to leave and become independent, “We help them find a new place and set up things like their electric and gas. We help them put up pictures and curtain rails.”
When placing each young person, Foster Portsmouth consider a range of criteria to ensure the best match possible to secure success. These include not only the age and gender of the young person and any children of the Supported Lodgings carer, but also location, ethnicity and religion, as well as additional factors such as pets and transport links. However, the most important consideration is the individual needs of the young person and a foster carer’s skills and experience.
“Becoming a Supported Lodgings carer hasn’t really impacted us, we just get on with it. A lot of the young people are good as gold, and if we have any worries we know our social worker Claire is available by phone or there is the out of hours team. We’ve also had a lot of good training including safeguarding and managing adverse childhood experiences.”
Unless they are placed in an emergency, carers meet the young person in advance along with a social worker. This offers an opportunity to agree household rules such as curfews, overnight visitors and shared spaces, and discuss their support needs.
Maria also shared, “You’ve got to do fostering or Supported Lodgings because you want to. There are challenges sometimes, including teaching them to budget and prioritise rent or food when they’d prefer to spend it on other stuff, or they don’t want to engage at times and you have to do your best and work with them. However, it is worth it when there is a positive ending, and they’re ready to move on and can get a nice place and do it all themselves.”
Maria and Rob still see and keep in touch with many of the young people they’ve cared for. The memories of their parting thanks and comments such as ‘I’m not leaving’ and ‘you helped save me’, reminds them of the vital support they offer.
Maria ended, “I would say to anyone considering becoming a Supported Lodgings carer that they should definitely go ahead with it!”
Whether you might consider a short or long term arrangement for a child or siblings until they’re ready to live independently or be reunited with family, support for unaccompanied children seeking asylum or children with a disability, supported lodgings, parent and baby placements, or respite care, you’ll find the right fit of fostering for you and your family.
Anyone aged 21+ with a spare bedroom could foster or provide Supported Lodgings with Foster Portsmouth regardless of their age, gender, faith, ethnicity, sexuality, marital or work status, or whether they rent or own their own home.
Supported Lodgings carers receive excellent, local training and 24/7 support, including through our mentoring scheme and pioneering Mockingbird Programme support network, and competitive fees and allowances.
We need more Supported Lodgings and foster carers in and around Portsmouth from diverse backgrounds who can offer their heart and home to vulnerable children and young people from our city. If you could make a positive difference to a child’s life and you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, we’d love to hear from you.
To enquire or to arrange a 1:1 with one of our experienced team or existing Supported Lodgings or foster carers, please fill in our contact form, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 023 9283 4071.