A Surrey County Council highways worker who fosters child asylum-seekers has welcomed the authority becoming a fostering friendly employer.
Mark Davies will get more help to balance his work and caring responsibilities now the county council has begun formally recognising the needs of staff who give a loving home to vulnerable children.
Mr Davies, of Merstham, has been fostering with his wife Hayley for four-and-a-half years. The couple permanently foster a child and have looked after six others.
This summer he was approved to foster unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and has already looked after a boy who fled religious persecution in Eritrea. A permanent home for the child has now been found.
Mr Davies says the council’s fostering friendly policy, signed off by its People, Performance and Development Committee, will help him fit essential meetings and appointments for the children he fosters around his work as a highways engineer.
The policy entitles staff to a set amount of paid leave to undergo the assessment process to become a foster carer or a friends and family carer and attend key meetings. It also allows them additional unpaid leave if needed or to deal with unexpected emergencies.
There is also a set amount of unpaid leave for prospective adopters and prospective special guardians as they undergo the assessment process.
Mr Davies said: ‘This will be a huge help to our family. Fostering is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. You can make a tangible difference to these children, even if they are only with you for a short time. It can be challenging at times, but the rewards more than compensate for this.’
The county council is now urging other employers across Surrey to adopt similar policies and help in the drive to find loving homes for children in need.
Surrey County Council leader David Hodge, who was brought up in an orphanage and a boys’ home, said: ‘People who are willing to open their homes and hearts to children in need can transform their lives and we’re proud to give our staff extra support to undertake this important role.
‘We are always looking for more foster carers, as well as those willing to adopt, and I would urge other employers to follow our lead and help their staff combine their work and family responsibilities.’
For more information about fostering call 08000 96 96 26 or visit surreycc.gov.uk/fostering.
Listen to Mark Davies talking about his experiences of fostering.