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Care leaver turned social worker urges people across County Durham to consider fostering vulnerable



A woman from County Durham who grew up in the care system, is calling for people in the area to consider a career in fostering and help change the lives of vulnerable children and young people.

As part of Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from Monday 11th – Sunday 23rd May, Camilla Hunter, 43, shares her experience in the hope it will inspire others to think about a career in fostering.

Camilla, now the Registered Manager for The Fostering Company North East – an independent fostering provider which is based in North Tyneside, and operates across the North East – was in foster care between the ages of nine and 16. During her time as a looked after child, she lived with three different fostering families until she moved into her own accommodation.

Camilla’s decision to pursue a career in social care was motivated by the relationship she had with her social workers as she was growing up, in particular one who helped her move out of care and into her own flat to live independently. Camilla felt that her experiences while she was in care helped her to understand and empathise with children and young people growing up in similar circumstances and gave her a good starting point to pursue a career as a social worker.

Commenting on her decision to start working within the care system, Camilla said: “I think I always knew that I was going to go into social care or something similar because I had experienced being in foster care first-hand, I enjoyed working with children and young people and always knew how important it is to be listened to and understood. I was in care for seven years and during that time I had four different social workers. Each were valuable because they really understood who I was and what I needed as an individual. They always went the extra mile for me.

“Foster care provided me with a safe and stable place while I was growing up and before I could move into my own place. I knew that this was something I wanted to help others in a similar position with. These relationships with social workers and foster carers, I believe are crucial to children and young people’s experience and positive outcomes.

Camilla qualified as a social worker in 2002 at 23-years-old while working with children and young people in residential care. Once qualified, Camilla decided she wanted to focus her career on working with looked after children living in foster care. By providing training and support to foster families, she feels she is helping the children and young people to feel safe, secure, and accepted and giving those in care to have more of a voice.

After working with the local authority and then with a children’s human rights organisation based in County Durham, in 2013, Camilla joined The Fostering Company North East, now part of the Five Rivers social enterprise group, where she is now the Registered Manager.

Camilla said: “I was super pleased to be offered a role at The Fostering Company North East because I was really attracted to the idea that it was a new business, at the time, and I could help to build the company up and create an organisation that focuses on improving children and young people’s futures by providing a safe and stable home.”

These days, Camilla manages a team recruiting and supporting foster carers to look after children and young people across the whole of the North East, ensuring that the youngsters get the right level of care, support and a safe place to live.

Commenting on the need for foster carers, Camilla said: “The Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t stopped us recruiting foster carers, in fact the number of children and young people needing foster care has risen dramatically in the last year. We’ve also found that lockdown has given people the opportunity for reflection and time to think about future career paths as well as many facing job uncertainty or redundancy, and becoming a foster carer is one option that more people are now considering.

“Having been a looked after child myself, I try to understand what many of the children I work with have gone through and cannot stress enough how important a good support system is for them. I’ve put all my energy into creating a fostering agency that supports every single person involved in fostering, everyone from the looked after child to foster carers and their birth children, as well as creating that consistency and stability which I felt was so vital during my own experience. I’m really proud of what we’ve created and would encourage anyone who is thinking about fostering to really explore the idea further and consider how rewarding it can be.

“We’re keen to hear from people from all backgrounds who are nurturing, compassionate and enjoy supporting others, whether you’re considering it for the first time, already have fostering experience or just someone who has questions about fostering and the variety of roles available. We provide training and round the clock support to ensure you can provide the best care to those in need.”

People from all walks of life can be considered to become foster carers as long as they are over 25 years of age. This includes single people, co-habiting people, people from the LGBT+ community and those living in rented accommodation. You will need a spare room for each foster child.

A career in foster care offers flexible working and competitive rates of pay. For more information on The Fostering Company, visit https://thefosteringcompanyneltd.co.uk/, call the enquiries team on 01912 836 774 or email info@thefosteringcompanyltd.co.uk.