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Bexley fostering service offering second chances to kids

PUBLISHED: 09:12 11 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:12 11 January 2013

Jim Lane and Jemal Koscan with a photo album of children they have given a home to

Jim Lane and Jemal Koscan with a photo album of children they have given a home to

Archant

There are 87,000 children in care in Britain and a new child enters the system every 22 seconds. The need for new carers has never been higher.

Eddie and Kay KoscanEddie and Kay Koscan

The responsibilities are vast and the pay is modest while security checks have increased after child abuse cases such as that of Baby P.

Bexley Council is holding a fostering information session next Thursday at the Howbury Centre, Erith, to try to encourage people in the borough to consider the idea of helping a child in need of a loving home.

Fostering provides stability and support for children from a wide range of families. While it is not easy and can be demanding and stressful, those on the inside say it can also be very fun and rewarding.

Depending on the circumstances, fostering could involve caring for children for a very short time such as an overnight stay, a few days, several months or longer.

Lorraine and Steve RainerLorraine and Steve Rainer

We talked to three families who foster for Bexley Council to see how it can change lives, and not just for the children.

Jim Lane, 27, and his partner Jemal Koscan, 26, are a same-sex couple who have been foster carers for Bexley Council for the past 18 months. They foster children from birth to 10 years old. Jemal works full time as a senior presentations specialist for a bank. They live on the edge of Bexley.

Jim says: “Jemal’s parents [Eddie and Kay Koscan] are fosterers, so being in that environment it was an easy decision to make.

“Some of the children come to us from very disadvantaged backgrounds. You really feel like you’re giving something back.

“At the moment we are looking after two children. It keeps you very busy and dramatically affects the way you live your life. It really is like having a full-time job – I stay at home with the children while Jemal goes to work.

“As far as I’m aware, we’re the youngest fosterers in the borough and also the only gay male couple.

“Ultimately, it’s very rewarding, giving children something they might not have experienced before – being cared for in a loving environment.

“It’s hard work but definitely worthwhile getting involved. As a gay couple, we haven’t experienced any homophobia and everyone has been incredibly supportive.

“We haven’t had any violent children, but they are all a challenge, some with complex behavioural issues. “It feels great to help them turn things around and improve their lives.”

Eddie Koscan, 54, and his wife Kay, 49, have been fostering in Bexley for six-and-a-half years. They have four children of their own, aged 20 to 31, and look after children from birth until 18. The couple have been married for 32 years. Eddie was the managing director of a clothes company before retiring. They live in Wilmington.

Kay says: “I wanted to see a difference in some of the children. I’ve got four of my own and my 26-year-old son Jemal is a foster carer.

“The process was very quick and took about six months. I’d definitely recommend it because we have found it to be a very fulfilling experience.

“We have three children with us now. One of them is a nine-year-old boy who has a mental age of about four and a half and has had a very difficult life. But he’s come on leaps and bounds in the 18 months since we first got him and it’s been great to see.

“He can do things he’s never been able to do before. This Christmas he played with Lego for the first time and he loved it.

“We’ve had issues with some of the children, but nothing which has pushed us towards giving up. It can be difficult working with social workers but it’s vitally important to maintain a good relationship with them.

“We love the children we get like they’re our own and that is a rewarding experience for both us and them.”

Bexleyheath couple Steve and Lorraine Rainer, both 36, have been fostering for five years. They have three children of their own and foster youngsters up to 16 years old. Steve used to own a glass business but gave it up three years ago to concentrate on fostering. He now voluntarily runs youth football clubs, which currently have around 400 children playing for them.

Lorraine says: “Our children have had a very good start in life. Some kids haven’t been so lucky. One of our neighbour’s children went into foster care as the parents were struggling and this is what prompted us to enquire about fostering.

“If children are moving around from home to home, it can create problems for them as adults.

“Stability is crucial for children and this is what we trying to provide. We want them to have a sense of normality.

“For people who are thinking about fostering it can be a quite a scary thought – and it should be because you don’t know what children you’re going to get coming into your homes or how they’re going to behave.

“But everything is explained to you and there are numerous open evenings to give you a true idea of what you’re going to be letting yourself in for.

“It is not for everyone, but if you’re good with kids, I would advise you to go along to the information session to find out for yourselves.”

If you are interested in going along to the session call 0800 783 7699 or email adoptionandfostering@bexley.gov.uk.

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