Formerly fostered staff member appeals for new carers

Ashleigh Stephen fostering

Midlothian Council has recruited the help of a highly qualified member of staff to help launch its latest foster care campaign.

Care experienced

In a role specially created for her, the council’s first participation assistant, Ashleigh Stephen, pictured, is already using her experience in kinship and foster care to improve Children’s Services.

Sharing her story

With foster carers urgently needed to look after teenagers, Ashleigh is sharing her own story to encourage people to consider fostering this age group.

Giving a teenager a home

She says: “I was 13 when I first went into foster care. I can still remember the short drive with our social worker to the house. It’s so difficult because you are going to live with strangers. They don’t know anything about you really.”

Carers were warm and kind

She and her brother were placed with a couple and their dog. She liked their warmth, kindness and also their honesty. While the social worker stressed the placement was temporary, the couple pointed out temporary could mean years.

Now extended family

In the end she lived with the couple on and off for two and a half years. She still thinks of them and their extended family as her family. In their home, she had safety, security, regular meal times, help with homework and people who listened to her. A spell back home with a parent, was chaotic by comparison.

Teenagers need understanding

Asked what are the most vital qualities teenagers need from their foster carer, she says: “I think foster carers need to understand that teenagers can be more difficult (than younger children) just because of the trauma they have been through. Teenagers in care often hide how they are really feeling or lash out verbally, so knowing how to access mental health support for young people such as an advocacy worker is really important.

Training and support

“Foster carers also need to make sure they take advantage of any training on offer about teenagers and mental health.”

Exam success

Ashleigh, who has passed her Highers and graduated from Edinburgh College with an HND in Beauty Therapy, said she would encourage local people to foster.

She says: “Offering a teenager a home can change their life and give them the security and sense of belonging they need.”

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5 Feb 2019