Page last updated at 15:00 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

'Fostering is worth it for the smiles'

A leading children's charity has warned that the lack of foster carers in Scotland has reached crisis point.

Barnardo's Scotland said there was a shortage of about 1,700 foster carers.

But those involved in caring say the rewards are plentiful and there is lots of support on offer.

Angela Brown with foster children
Angela and Stuart have adopted twins they began fostering

"It is a challenge and it is busy but you put your head on the pillow at night and you think: 'He smiled at me today'."

Angela Brown, from Motherwell in North Lanarkshire, has been fostering children for more than 10 years. She is one of Barnardo's Scotland's most experienced carers.

She has a 20-year-old daughter of her own and at the moment she and her husband are looking after two brother's aged nine and 10 and two-year-old twins that they officially adopted last August.

"It can be hectic in the morning getting everyone up, organised and out," she said.

"But often something as simple as a child's smile makes it all worthwhile."

I want to dismiss the myths that there is no support and training given to people like me
Angela Brown

According to Angela a key part of the process is making sure the foster children become part of her existing family.

"You learn to treat them as your own," she said.

"The boys have been here for so long now that they just fit like a glove. They are treated as if they were my own sons."

But as an experienced carer Angela has looked after some extremely challenging children and had to deal with difficult behaviour and situations.

"I had one wee boy who wanted to slit my throat," she revealed.

"He told a friend he wanted to feel what it would be like to kill someone and he described how he would do it and taste the blood.

"We then discovered the knife he had talked about using was missing so that was hairy for a while."

Ongoing training

The boy required more specialist help and was moved on to somewhere that better suited his needs.

But the experience did not put Angela off and she is keen to encourage more people to come forward for training as foster parents.

"I would recommend it to everyone," she said.

"Barnardo's is crying out for carers and I want to dismiss the myths that there is no support and training given to people like me."

Angela has recently completed an SVQ in Child Care and is now studying for an HNC.

She said she gets training throughout the year from the charity and always knows there is help available.

"When things get really hectic I've got on-call support and that's available 24 hours a day, every day of the year," she added.

"There's always somebody at the end of the phone that can calm you down and work with you to get through whatever the problem is."

She added: "If it is worries about training that are holding people back from fostering then I would urge them to think about it again and come forward."

Barnardo's Fostering and Adoption Week runs from 18 - 24 January.

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