Nottingham City Council has pledged its support for a new charity set up by a father and daughter to support foster children.
Stuart Ferguson and Nicola Barber have launched My Bag, which aims to help foster children through the difficult first few days of settling into a new home.
Drawing on their own first-hand experiences of being both foster and adoptive parents in the City, the pair have raised money to provide children with a bag containing small personal items.
These include a blanket, colouring books and a teddy bear for younger children. The idea is to have bags for two age groups – three to 11-year-olds and 12 to 16-year-olds.
The charity aims to generate enough money to pay for around 300 bags a year – each costing between £25 and £30. This will cost up to £9,000 annually.
The bags will then be made up and distributed to four social worker bases in Nottingham, which are Loxley House in the city centre, Bulwell Riverside, Clifton Cornerstone and the Mary Potter Centre in Hyson Green. City Council social workers overseeing handovers will also be given bags to keep in their cars.
Now, Stuart and Nicola are ready to launch My Bag as part of the annual Foster Care Fortnight campaign, which started last Monday and runs until Sunday (27 May).
Stuart said: “My wife and I have been fostering children in Nottingham for eight years, both short-term emergency cases and longer-term placements with youngsters of all ages.
“It’s hard work but incredibly rewarding to be able to step in and help vulnerable children in that way.
“The idea for My Bag came to Nicola and I when we were talking about our experiences of fostering children – particularly the emergency cases. It must be incredibly unsettling for any child, especially the younger ones, to move into a stranger’s house and we thought this would be a lovely way to hopefully make them feel at home as quickly as possible.”
Nicola added: “I’ve gone on to adopt one of the children that I fostered and so have first-hand experience of what they face and how important it is to help them settle into a loving home.
“The nature of emergency placements can mean that things happen very quickly and sometimes children join their new foster parents with very few personal possessions.
“We hope that something as simple as a blanket and a teddy to cuddle up to will help make those first few days a little easier.”
Councillor David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years at Nottingham City Council, has accepted an offer to become a trustee of My Bag.
He said: “I’m really excited to be part of this innovative project to help some of the City’s most vulnerable children. Stuart and Nicola have looked after many children in Nottingham, and My Bag is a fantastic idea that can make a real difference.
“It will be particularly helpful for the children who find themselves in emergency placements. In extreme cases this can involve them unexpectedly being collected, perhaps from school, by a member of our staff who they perhaps won’t know and then taken to meet their foster carers.
“Coming into care will be a difficult experience for many children. A bag containing items which will be theirs to keep will ease this time and I applaud Nicola and Stuart for taking this initiative.”
More information about My Bag is available at www.mybagcharity.co.uk, including how to get in touch to make a donation.