As the first two churches in South Cumbria sign up to Cumbria County Council’s Fostering Friendly Churches (FFC) scheme, Barrow-based clergyman and foster carer, Reverend Andy Batchelor, is calling for more local churches to get involved.
Foster carers have an important role and the FFC scheme asks local churches to help provide them with a network of support that allows them to change the lives of the children in their care.
Launched in September, the scheme is part of the council’s ongoing drive to recruit more foster carers for vulnerable children across the county; with churches which sign up also being asked to participate in foster carer recruitment campaigns throughout the year.
Cumbria County Council already support over 200 foster families, but with close to 700 children in care, they are always looking for more people to join in.
The latest churches to sign up are St Mary’s on Walney Island and St John’s on Barrow Island and Reverend Andy Batchelor, who fosters alongside wife Julie, is vicar of both churches.
He says: “I was so pleased that we have now become Fostering Friendly churches, particularly as through our work as carers, Julie and I understand the urgent need for more carers across our county, and the importance of developing a supportive community across Barrow. I hope that we can play our part in supporting the vital work of transforming children’s lives.”
He adds: “My wife Julie and I were both brought up in families that included foster children, and Julie had, for a long time, felt that we might be able to offer a home to children in need of one. What spurred us into action was an information stall in the local market where Julie had a chat about the urgent need, and the process of becoming a foster carer, and after having a conversation with our daughter who lived at home with us, we decided that the time was right to investigate further.
“After undergoing the very thorough process of assessment we were approved to be foster carers, undertook some initial training, and began the wait to be ‘matched’ to a relevant case.
“We are now long term foster carers for two children aged 9 and 11, and they are very much a part of our family. They are thriving and happy, with many friends and activities they take part in, and it has been a real joy to see them flourish and grow.
“People often comment that they admire our dedication in taking on the children, but in reality we are just an ordinary family who happens to have the space and the willingness to take in children in desperate need of love and stability in their lives.
“If you are considering fostering please do pursue it, it is incredibly rewarding, and you will make an unbelievable difference to these children’s lives.”
Claire Lloyd, Fostering Service Manager at Cumbria County Council, said: “We’re delighted to welcome both of these churches into the scheme; Fostering Friendly Churches can make a huge difference to the lives of foster carers in Cumbria and the children they care for.
“I’d like to thank both churches for being the first in South Cumbria to come on board and lend their weight to our scheme and I hope very much that other local churches will be inspired to follow suit.”