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Foster carer from Rickmansworth urges others to reach out to youngsters
A PENSIONER from Rickmansworth who has been a foster carer for almost 20 years is urging others to reach out to children and young people in need.
Ann Gibson, 67, of The Cloisters, has taken 50 children under her wing since she started fostering in 1991.
The retired teacher was inspired to provide a loving home for youngsters after seeing her friend's family fostering children while she was growing up.
Miss Gibson said: "Although I have never had children of my own, I have always worked with them, and I first thought about fostering in the 70s, but social services said I was too busy in my job.
"Much later I saw an advert for foster carers for teenagers, and it said it didn't matter if you were single or working.
"I have now taken in 50 infants and teenagers, with some staying only a day, and others moving in for up to eight years, leaving when they are ready to live independently.
"Probably the best thing is seeing a child grow up and set out on a completely different path in life to what they might have done - most come from difficult backgrounds but there is almost always a breakdown in their home relationships."
But Miss Gibson admits fostering is far from easy: "Sometimes the placement doesn't work out and the young person moves on without you being able to help them, which is hard to deal with.
"It can also be really frustrating to see a child really unhappy and not be able to change what's happened to them.
"But on the whole, fostering has been a very satisfying and fulfilling experience and I would urge anyone who is willing and able to do it to register.
"I plan to continue taking in young people for as long as I can."
Miss Gibson is speaking out during Foster Care Fortnight (May 17 - 30), a campaign run by the Fostering Network to find more than 10,000 foster carers needed across the UK.
More than 400 foster families care for more than 500 children and young people in Hertfordshire, but more than 80 homes are still in needed across the county this year.
Particularly in demand are people who can look after siblings and teenagers, and experienced carers who can offer specialist support.
Executive member for children's services at Hertfordshire County Council, Jane Pitman said: "Foster carers make such a dramatic difference to children's lives and can help to provide opportunities to improve children's futures.
"We want people to seriously consider whether they have some of the skills - such as kindness, patience and enthusiasm for working with children and young people - needed to be a foster carer."
Foster carers in the county receive full training, support from a dedicated social worker and an allowance of up to ÃÂ£400 per week.
If you have a spare room in your home and the skills to take care of a child in need, visit www.hertsdirect.org/fostering or call 0800 917 0925.
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