A PAIR of Wirral friends who spent years in foster care have joined forces to reach out to other youngsters in similar situations.
Laura Bodinham-Whittaker, from Leasowe, and Sarah French, from Birkenhead, want to help teenagers leaving the care system to come to terms with what they have been through.
Mum-of-two Laura was first put into care when she was just a baby before being adopted at three, but she was later put back into fostering at eight years old.
Her childhood saw her being shipped between different families and children’s homes across the North West as she struggled to understand why she was different to other children.
The 25-year-old said she found it difficult to deal with social situations upon leaving the care system and didn’t feel she could talk to anyone.
But now Laura and Sarah, who became ‘foster sisters’ during their teenage years, have set up Fostering Voices UK to make sure other care leavers do not suffer in silence.
Laura said: “I’d been thinking about starting something like this for some time because it is very difficult when you leave your foster families to find your way.
“Sarah and I had different experiences from each other but what we both found was that there was not enough support out there for people in care or for those leaving. We couldn’t talk about our feelings to anyone because we were so worried about people judging us and not being able to relate to us.
“But with Fostering Voices UK, we want to offer emotional support as well as giving them social skills and confidence because these young people often find it tough to fit in and deal with certain social settings. We will also teach them about contraception as research shows that the majority of young women leaving care will be pregnant within a year.”
To begin with, the pair are running their group from Laura’s home where they invite local care leavers to come in and chat.
Among the skills they hope to teach are cooking, financial budgeting and basic literacy and numeracy.
And they are planning a series of fundraising events to help towards the cost of resources, including a charity walk on November 3 and a Christmas fun day on December 8.
Laura said: “As a mother, I am determined not to let my own children go through what I did and have such an unstable up-bringing. And we want to reach out to others and make sure they can talk through their problems with people who have been there themselves.
“We also work with the care leavers to let them know of their rights and what other support there is for them.
“We have already had meeting with social services and other agencies and we want to raise the profile of Fostering Voices UK with our fundraisers – we hope to make a difference to people’s lives.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/fosteringvoicesuk