Newport fosterer on the secret of caring for teenagers

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For one foster carer, the secret to looking after youngsters is gaining their trust.

Mike Foster – yes, that is his name – has been housing three teenagers in Newport, and is convinced it is the best thing he has ever done.

Now that his own children have left home the former businessman spends his time on his allotment.

It’s there that the teenagers, from Iraq, Iran and Eritrea, visit to steal his strawberries, he jokes.

“I will rock the boat until people back me,” says Mike Foster

He has a philosophy he applies to looking after those in his care: “You have to keep it real,” the keen motorcyclist said.

“You can have all the theories you like but I will really fight for the kids in my care.

“I will rock the boat until people back me. I advocate for them because they don’t have a voice.”

Mike said language was a barrier, but he and the teens use Google Translate, sign language and mime to communicate.

The biggest challenge has been earning their respect.

Rachelle

Rachelle was brought to the UK from Cameroon and abandoned at Leeds bus station

He said that developed once they accepted he was working for them.

“I know I am making a difference with these kids,” he said. “You can see them thrive and it is wonderful.”

Rachelle was brought from Cameroon to the UK on someone else’s passport by a family acquaintance after her parents died.

Rachelle

Struggling with her mental health, Rachelle was taken to Newport

After being taken from Heathrow she was abandoned at Leeds bus station. She was 17.

Struggling with mental health problems, she was taken to Newport and fostered by a woman called Glenda.

‘Values, compassion and boundaries’

“It was a home. She inspired me,” the 32-year-old said.

“I would say a massive thank you to her. She is among the people who enabled me to become the person I am today.

“She offered me values, compassion and boundaries.”

Now a social worker for Newport City Council, Rachele is also a foster carer herself.

She urged others to consider it.

“It is so important to raise awareness,” she said. “It is sometimes just those little differences that can make such a difference to the people you are caring for.”

foster wales

Alastair Cope, head of Foster Wales, says carers do not have to be superheroes

Foster Wales, which represents fostering services across Wales’ 22 councils, wants people to support teenagers, some of whom have fled trouble overseas.

The organisation urges single people and those from ethnic minorities to consider coming forward to help.

It is also on the lookout for people to look after older teenagers, often from abroad.

‘You don’t have to be a superhero’

Wales has committed to taking in 150 young people from other countries who have fled natural disasters, persecution and war.

“You don’t have to be a superhero,” said Foster Wales head Alastair Cope.

“There is a difference between this and mainstream fostering. They do tend to be older children and young people in the 14-17 age range,” said Mr Cope.

“The commitment is very different. We are not looking for a place to call home. We are looking for almost a temporary stopgap to support them.

“To mentor them, to offer them advice, to help them with language skills and all the different things.

“It is very much a place to stay rather than a place to call home.

“And that is where the difference lies.”

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