Could you foster a child from war-torn Ukraine?

Rachael Davies paints a picture of an idyllic childhood. Days at the seaside, coach trips, and above all, plenty of laughter.

Rachael and Amanda Davies have fostered about 50 children between them
Rachael and Amanda Davies have fostered about 50 children between them

And all the more fun because Rachael and her sister shared their formative years surrounded by children from difficult backgrounds whom her mother had fostered.

Now Rachael and her mother Amanda – who between them have given homes to more than 60 children – are seeking a new generation of foster parents to look after children fleeing war zones such as Afghanistan and the Ukraine.

It has been estimated that 100,000 children are living under the threat of bombardment across seven children's homes in Kyiv, with just 2,500 evacuated so far.

But concerns have also been raised about the shortage of suitable homes for children who have made it to these shores, with human rights charity Love146 claiming that 250 unaccompanied refugee children were living in London hotels.

To mark Foster Care Fortnight, Rachael and Amanda are appealing for families in the West Midlands, Shropshire and Staffordshire to offer homes to unaccompanied children fleeing conflict, saying the experience can be most rewarding.

Rachael, who is 38, says growing up with other children was a wonderful experience, so much so that she herself started fostering as soon as she reached the age of 21.

"It was a good experience for us, me and my sister were very supportive of the children, and we both went into caring roles when we grew up," she says.

"My mum fostered around 40 children over an 11-year period, and I remembered us having so much fun together.

"We would go on lots of trips and days out, and when I was older, I wanted to do the same."

Rachael says it probably helped that the children were all younger, and she and her sister enjoyed playing the role of the "big sister" confidante when the children wanted to talk about their problems.

"Very often they would talk to us about things rather than the adults," she says.

Rachael also decided to follow in her mother's footsteps by training as a social worker, and she later became a fostering services manager before setting setting up her agency Families First Fostering in Stone, near Stafford, two years ago.

She says foster parents typically receive fees of between £350-£420 a week for each child they care for, rising to £650 for children with complex needs. Support is available 24 hours a day, she says, with frequent visits from a qualified social worker.

Rachael says children come into foster care for all kinds of reasons.

"Sometimes it might only be for short period, because their parents have problems which make it difficult to care for them," she says.

Others may have suffered abuse and neglect, and she says the recent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Ukraine have led to an increase in the number of children coming to Britain as refugees with no parents to look after them.

Of course, fostering is not all about refugee children.

Brian Saunders has been fostering for Wolverhampton Council for four years, and has recently been granted permanent residence of a nine-year-old boy who has flourished under his family's care.

"It's not just my wife and me that do it, it's our four daughters as well," he says.

"He's treated as part of the family, it's the feeling of belonging and identity.

"Because they have been passed from pillar to post, a lot of these children, all they want to do is be safe and secure, and have a feeling of belonging. You have just got to be there and be a guide.

"It is a challenge, but to watch these children blossom and bloom, it's very rewarding, it's far better than anything anybody can give you."

Rachael says foster parents come in all shapes and sizes, and no special qualifications are required.

"We look for many different types of families to meet the diverse needs of our children," she says.

"Many types of families are foster parents regardless of their age, ethnicity, relationship status, sexuality, age, gender, number of children or household income."

There is no upper age limit, but carers must be at least 21 and be either British citizens, or have permanent leave to stay. Carers must be able to commit to full-time fostering, or at the very least have an understanding employer, Rachael adds.

She says there is no requirement to own your own home, but you must have a spare bedroom for the child.

Rachael says the first thing anybody thinking of taking in a child refugee from Ukraine should do is to talk to her or one of the other fostering organisations about what it entails.

"The first thing they should do is find out more," she says.

"You don't have to commit, it's just about finding out whether it is for you."

Visit familiesfirstfostering.com for more information, email info@familiesfirstfostering.com or call 01785 747171.

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