Foster Care Fortnight - 15 to 28 May 2023
Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from 15 to 28 May this year, aims to raise the profile of fostering and show how foster care transforms lives.
Fostering is providing a safe and secure home for vulnerable babies, children and young people who are unable to be at home with their own families. Sometimes this is for a few nights and sometimes for a few years.
Sarah Livingstone is approaching her 10th anniversary of fostering for Camden in June. She’s a local resident and parent of two grown-up children of her own. Originally a baby foster carer for eight-and-a-half years, Sarah has, since her daughter moved out of the family home, moved onto fostering older children – and she is currently fostering an eight-year-old boy.
Sarah has been the Chair of Camden Association of Foster Carers (CAFC) for about 18 months, having previously been Vice Chair. She took over from John Doneo MBE, a foster carer for more than 50 years who sadly died on 19 April having fostered over 300 children with his late wife Moira.
Sarah is a committed and passionate foster carer, while also being an energetic advocate for all Camden’s foster carers in her CAFC role. One of her proudest achievements has been the launch in November last year of Replenish boxes for black looked-after children. The branded boxes contain hair and skin products to support foster carers to better meet the needs of the children they care for, both girls and boys.
Following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Sarah and Camden’s former fostering team manager, James Kargbo, spoke a lot about black identity and fostering. As CAFC Chair, Sarah had many conversations with foster carers about their anxieties regarding caring for their black foster child’s hair and skin. From these conversations, Sarah came forward with the idea for the boxes, which was taken forward by James, who came up with the name Replenish to represent the act of pouring love and good energy into a child. Their idea won the backing of Camden Council’s Executive Director of Supporting People and Deputy Chief Executive, Martin Pratt, who agreed to fund the programme, and the Replenish logo was designed by black looked-after children.
I put my thinking cap on and thought ‘how do we best support our foster carers and also become better corporate parents to our black looked-after children?’ I went to the fostering team manager, James Kargbo, and said ‘look, I’ve got this idea for how we can better support foster carers looking after children from different backgrounds to themselves’. I have black children and I used to have a box of hair products for them – so I came up with the idea of boxes. James said ‘what a fantastic idea’ so I went and put a couple of prototypes together.
Since then, the Replenish box scheme has become a huge hit with foster carers, both white and black, and is now attracting interest well beyond Camden, with Sarah advising other local authorities on how to get similar schemes up and running. Replenish also offers a starting point for conversations about black identity, which may be difficult for white carers.
“No other local authority has done this,” said Sarah. “We had unbelievable responses to the boxes from foster carers – they are really, really happy that this has happened. And I received some lovely videos of children opening their boxes. I've had some fantastic feedback and some brilliant emails from foster carers saying ‘thank you so much for the boxes, they are amazing’. As long as your foster child has kinky, curly, coily Afro hair, they are entitled to a box.”
As far as being a foster carer goes, Sarah said: “I always knew I wanted to foster, to make a difference. With fostering, you need to be able to put your all into it.”
Find out more
Every 20 minutes in the UK a child comes into care, often from very challenging circumstances where they might have experienced abuse or been neglected. Or there might have been family illness, a breakdown in relationships, or a young person may have arrived unaccompanied from abroad.
In Camden, we need more people who are willing to open their homes and their hearts to welcome in our vulnerable children and provide them with care, stability and consistency. Please visit the website to find out more.