“AS soon as they walk through the door, they are part of the family.”

That's the message of a foster carer from Clacton following Foster Care Fortnight, which comes to an end today.

Foster carer Kathy wants to encourage more people to come forward and foster as part of a campaign run by Essex County Council.

The 61-year-old has been fostering young people since 2013.

She knows that in addition to proving the security of a safe loving home and a supportive foster family, it’s little things like teaching the young person to cook or do the laundry which will help them become confident, independent young adults.

“One of my young people was 15 years old when she came into our family, and she stayed for five years until just before her 21st birthday, she said.

"She stayed with us as part of the Essex ‘staying put’ scheme, which supports young people by giving them valuable extra time during which they can be helped to prepare for living independently.

“I encouraged her to look after her room and help around the house and she helped cook and do laundry for herself.

"These are things we often take for granted, but it’s these small things that make a difference to a young person.

"They leave knowing they will be ok living independently.

“I find this extremely rewarding because I see them grow and develop so much over the years, and I build long lasting relationships with them because I’ve spent time with them, helping them and supporting them however they needed me to, and I’m still in touch with them now after they’ve moved out.”

Kathy said that even though there are challenges, you have to show your foster children support and make them feel heard.

“Foster children do have challenges because they have usually experienced some trauma, but all they need is love, support and somewhere to call home and they look to you to give that to them and that’s exactly what we do," she added.

"Hopefully they go forward with their lives knowing that they have that support.”

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Helping hand - Kathy, 61, of Clacton

There are 1,100 children in care and Essex County Council is urging more people to consider fostering because more foster carers are needed to offer part-time and full time fostering.

Foster carers can be single, married, from the LGBTQ + community or retired.

The council offers all foster carers excellent local training with an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers.

It also offers 24/7 local support, a dedicated social worker and access to clinical psychologists.

Beverley Egan, cabinet member for children’s services and early years, said: “We need more people to consider fostering to help children and young people become confident and independent.

“Our foster carers provide a safe, stable, and nurturing home environment to hundreds of young people across Essex every year, which helps them prepare for independent living. “The support provided by Essex County Council enables our foster carers to follow their passion and make a real difference to a young person’s life.”

Kathy is encouraging anyone thinking about fostering children or young people to pick up the phone and enquire. “The most rewarding thing is seeing our foster children happy," she said.

"They haven’t always had the best experiences but seeing them grow, seeing them develop and seeing them happy is the best feeling in the world.

“It is a job, but it doesn’t feel like a job. I treat them like I did my own children.

"As soon as they walk through the door, they are part of the family.”

Find out more, including a drop-in fostering event in Chelmsford on Saturday, May 21, from 10.30am to 12.30pm, and an online fostering information event on May 28, go to bit.ly/ECCfostering or call 0800 801 530.