A Kirklees dad, who has described his first year as a foster carer as “great fun”, is backing calls by Kirklees Council for more people, men included, to take up the role, and consider fostering older children.
Last year Phil Weston swapped his job of 15 years in a debt recovery unit for full time fostering, having been told for years by friends and family that he was a natural with children; a decision he says he wishes he’d made sooner.
Since being approved, the 49-year old has taken the role in his stride, providing much needed support and guidance to several older children.
Kirklees Council has now released an online video in which Phil opens up about the positive effect fostering has had on him, his wife, Becky, and 11-year old son, Isaac, as well as the children he’s cared for.
He says: “When I first enquired about becoming a foster carer I genuinely thought I wouldn’t qualify because I’m a man. I guess I had my own misconceptions but far from being an issue, I was actually encouraged to apply by the fostering team at Kirklees.
“With my wife working full time as an advanced nurse practitioner and me facing redundancy at work it made more sense for me to be the main caregiver. I was definitely in the minority when I went on all the training courses but nobody made me feel uncomfortable or out of place. In fact the response I’ve had as a male foster carer has been really positive. I’ve had the odd curious glance from strangers when I’ve been with a child who doesn’t look like me but I can’t say it’s been an issue.
Locally and nationally there is a chronic shortage of foster carers, particularly for children over the age of seven, who make up around 75% of the 469 children who are currently in the Kirklees care system. The result is that some are moved around various foster homes and schools, often out of their local area and away from everything they know.
Andy Quinlan, acting fostering service manager from Kirklees Council, added: “Fostering is all about the level of care, love and attention that an individual can provide to a child, rather than being about age, gender or sexual orientation. But because fostering is traditionally perceived as a female profession many men are deterred from taking on the role as the main caregiver. Yet male foster carers like Phil can play a vital role in the lives of many children in care, particularly for a child who has never had a positive male role model in their life.
Find out about Phil’s fostering experiences in his online video at: https://www.kirklees.gov.uk/beta/fostering/our-foster-carers.aspx . You can also talk to experienced foster carers at a Kirklees Council drop-in information event at the John Smith’s Stadium (Stadium Way, Huddersfield, HD1 6PG) on Thursday 11th July between 5.30 and 7.30pm. Alternatively you can talk to Kirklees Council’s fostering team on Tel: 0800 389 0086 or visit: www.kirklees.gov.uk/fostering