Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 649

2 25 MAY 2023 News&Views Michael Ewins was 10 when he was put into care. He’d lost his muma few years earlier and lived with several foster families and in residential care before, aged 14, being placed with the couple that would change his life. “They are, for all intents and purposes, my family,” saysMichael, a Partner and brand assurancemanager atWaitrose. “They are brilliant. They’re grandparents tomy two boys now and they’ve always been there for me, even as an adult. “Residential care has its place, but for me it felt alien. I missed the family environment where you talk about your day and watch TV together,” he adds. “To get that back was important for me and I’ll always be grateful.” More than 98,000 children are in care on any one day in the UK. Of these, nearly 70,000 live with almost 55,000 foster families – but more are always urgently needed. That’s why Foster Care Fortnight, which runs until Sunday (28May), was founded by charity The Fostering Network in 1997. It aims to raise awareness and show how o ering a safe and loving home can transform the life of a vulnerable child. Fostering was the focus of the 2022 John Lewis Christmas advert, which featured a couple welcoming foster child Ellie into their home. It alsomarked the launch of the Partnership’s Building Happier Futures employment scheme, o ering training and jobs to young people from care backgrounds. “Seeing the ad was emotional,” recalls Michael. “But what was meaningful was seeing the Partnership taking that step and “Our current foster child has been with us for threemonths and it’s been amassive rollercoaster of emotions, but we’re just starting to see the incredible person that she can really be, because she’s now starting to feel safe. She trusts us and knows it doesn’t matter what she’s doing, we’re still going to give her the care that she needs.” Michael echoes how important this emotional back-up is. “A foster family has the chance to change someone’s entire life,” he says. “The care, support and understanding you get during childhood is vital, because it helps you to process your emotions when you’re older. “I’m41 now andmy foster family has helpedme shape how I want to be as a dad, how I want to livemy life, my values, my career – that’s all come from them. They’ve made amassive di erence, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.” For more information on fostering, visit thefosteringnetwork.org.uk FORMING BONDS Sarah Radley and her family (left); the John Lewis ad that launched the Building Happier Futures scheme (below); Michael Ewins with his son (bottom) GIVING THE GIFT OF LOVE AND SAFETY It’s Foster Care Fortnight and a leading charity is calling on us all to consider opening our homes to a vulnerable child, writes Emma Higginbotham going: ‘So, how can wemake a real di erence to this group of people in the long term?’ It’s brilliant to see that work taking place.” The Partnership, which is the largest organisation to be awarded Fostering Friendly accreditation by The Fostering Network, has announced that it will o er an extra week’s paid leave to all new foster carers within the business. Sarah Radley, Partner and storemanager at London’sMill Hill store, says this will be widely welcomed. “There are a lot of meetings and ongoing training,” she explains. “That extra weekwill also give Partners the opportunity to take a day o for the young person’s birthday, or attend their school events. It gives flexibility.” Sarah and her husband began fostering nearly three years ago. “We had the space in our home and our hearts to support those that hadn’t had the opportunities that our own daughters, who are 16 and 17, have had,” she says. “It’s hard work and challenging, but there are good times as well. ‘A foster family can change someone’s life. The care, support and understanding you get in childhood is vital’ Picture posed by models Cover Photograph: Anthony Pham / Getty Images