If you’re over 21, have a spare bedroom and can support a young person aged 18-24 as they leave care and learn independent living skills, you could be a Supported Lodgings carer.
Tamara and Menno Groen have provided Supported Lodgings for vulnerable young people in the Portsmouth area for four years. Tamara’s advice to anyone considering becoming a Supported Lodgings carer is, “Do it! You are providing a young person with a secure base as they make their way in the world.”
Foster Portsmouth’s Supported Lodgings scheme enables people to provide accommodation and a minimum of 10 hours a week support for a young person aged 18 and over taking their first steps into independence. Many of these young people will be leaving foster care, or they may be homeless or unaccompanied minors who’ve recently arrived in the city.
Tamara continued, “As a woman of colour and daughter of an immigrant, I am particularly passionate about immigrant and refugee rights, and about supporting young asylum seekers. This led me to hosting young people, particularly unaccompanied asylum seeking young people, through Supported Lodgings with Foster Portsmouth. As a port city, Portsmouth is a hub for unaccompanied minors, and I want to provide them with a safe and welcoming home.”
Due to instability in their home countries, the number of unaccompanied refugee children and young people seeking a safe and secure home in the Portsmouth area continues to rise. Caring for these children is highly rewarding; supporting their ambitions to learn English, engage in education and discover their carer’s own culture and way of life.
Tamara and Menno have provided a safe and supportive environment for 15 young people ranging from 16 to 19 years of age, helping them to develop their independence. Tamara explained, “Each young person’s needs differ, and some require more support than others. I help them develop the skills to live independently, ranging from language skills and cooking through to making sure they get to college on time. I help them deal with life admin such as contacting the immigration solicitor, dealing with the Home Office, and booking medical appointments. It’s about getting all the cogs going in the machine of life and mentoring them so they can run the machine themselves.”
Tamara, who is a full time Supported Lodgings carer, and Menno, who moved to the UK 20 years ago from The Netherlands and works in IT, have received continued support from Foster Portsmouth via out of hours social workers as well as their own supervising social worker who they meet regularly. Tamara shared, “She is my sounding board and my adviser. No question or worry is too trivial for her, and she ensures that my queries and concerns are addressed promptly. She is always my first port of call.”
One young person, 17 at the time he stayed with Tamara and Menno, was an independent, determined young man, keen to learn English and create a life for himself in the UK. Tamara points out, “Supported Lodgings gives them a safe, supportive and welcoming home environment for them to develop their practical skills and emotional development for living independently. It is a safe environment for them to grow, make mistakes and develop the practical skills needed for adult life. The way I see it, Supported Lodgings helps set them up for success.”
Tamara, who describes her background in theatre and the arts as eclectic, developed into arts access and working with young people before becoming a foster carer. She initially discussed her interest in fostering with an acquaintance who is an experienced foster carer for Portsmouth City Council. They were able to provide an insight into the world of fostering and the confidence to apply, “I then contacted Foster Portsmouth to discuss my suitability, the care options and age range. Together, we decided Supported Lodgings was the best fit as I am experienced in working with young people.”
Tamara admits, “Sharing your home with a new person is always a challenge as it is a change to the household environment. I sometimes feel a bit anxious at the beginning of a placement as it takes a while to get to know each other and adapt to the new rhythm of the household. However, I remind myself that if I am anxious, the new young person probably is too!”
“If it is a planned placement, we meet the young person in advance. This usually happens at our home so they can see the house and their room. My supervising social worker and the young person’s social worker or personal adviser usually also attend to facilitate the discussion around support needs, household rules, etc.”
As part of the application process to become an approved carer, applicants are encouraged to consider their household rules. These are shared with the young person at the placement meeting and are also developed with the young person when they are in placement. Tamara added, “All parties also sign a placement ‘contract’ which considers issues like curfew, overnight visitors and the shared spaces. If it is an unplanned or emergency placement, however, we usually aren’t able to meet beforehand.”
Both Tamara and Menno are interested in environmental and social justice, and find providing Supported Lodgings highly rewarding, “Being able to advocate for a young person, to help them fight their corner, to see them develop emotionally and become settled in the home and their lives is great. I provide a bridge between foster care and independent living, so my role is to guide them and support them towards this.”
“Being friendly, helpful, practical and organised are all useful skills being a Supported Lodgings carer. Having tenacity and a sense of humour is also beneficial!”
Foster Portsmouth are looking for individuals, couples or families who understand the issues facing young people today and who are able to offer support to help them to develop their independent living skills such as cooking or budgeting; people who can encourage them to develop friendships and maintain contact with family, whilst helping them with applications or to actively seek education, training or employment. As these young people have a degree of independence, these placements can fit in well with carers who have work commitments or work full-time.
Tamara concluded, “With this role, you’re a supportive host and not a parent. For me, this is the main difference between fostering and Supported Lodgings and why I am a Supported Lodgings carer.”
Could you be a young person’s inspiration and mentor to help them get off on the right start to a successful independent life?
To enquire about fostering or Supported Lodgings with Foster Portsmouth, or to arrange a 1:1 with one of our experienced team or existing foster carers, please fill in our contact form below, call 023 9283 4071 or email email@example.com.