Tall Trees private foster care

Private fostering is when you care for a child who is not your own.

That might be looking after a grandchild, niece or nephew if parents cannot cope, or helping out a teenager who is unhappy at home.

Whatever the reason, if a child stays with you more than 28 days you need to contact Tall Trees Family Centre in Turkey Road.

Tall Trees is run by NCH, the children's charity, in partnership with East Sussex County Council with the aim of supporting children and helping them reach their full potential.

Tall Trees is currently campaigning to raise awareness of private fostering, as care manager Suzanne Cornford said: "There are different scenarios people find themselves in - from adolescents coming over here for a better education, to where mums and dads can't look after children because of their own health issues.

"Private fostering is an unregulated service where children can fall through the net if they move around a lot. We are the eyes and ears of the County Council but we cannot do it on our own - we need all agencies to contact us, such as schools, health workers, and tell us if someone is looking after another person's child, whether that's a friend or close relative.

"We are here to support the placement, support the young person. We are not there to disturb but to safeguard."

Tall Trees gives practical help and advice to families such sorting out school moves, or liasing with estranged parents if necessary, but also provides vital one-to-one contact with a case-worker who builds a relationship with the child and the foster care family.

Anu Ogunmefun is a 15 year old from Polegate who has lived with Pat and Vic Brooker since she was five weeks old, and has regular contact with Tall Trees.

Anu's mother was a family friend and her two older brothers were already living with the couple who were ready to provide a warm and loving home to grow up in.

Anu commented: "In our house it doesn't seem they are not my mum and dad...I see them as they are. Everyone in my house is so closely knit, everybody is the same. I am like any other child in my year at school.

"They treat me in the right way...if I do something wrong they are there for me but they give me enough leeway so I can make up my own mind, and make my own own choices. Then I know what to do if a situation arises again."

Pat and Vic have been foster carers for more than 30 years having had five children of their own.

Pat said: "I felt I could offer something. We thought we could offer something - and give something back. I am really happy to think we have fulfilled this and are doing a good job - Anu is part of my family. We had her two brothers first, and then Anu came along and her mum asked us to foster her. She just fitted in."

Vic added: "We used to do a Christmas dinner but the family grew too big...Now we have a buffet in the evening because there's 25/30 come down and they either call me Dad or Grandad.

"Foster caring is even better than we thought, because if you do it properly and you treat them as your own children, you get as much, if not more, back than you ever put in."

If you are looking after a child and plan to do so for more than 28 days please contact Tall Trees on 01424 730022.