To hear from one of the team at Worcestershire scroll to the bottom of the page and view one of our many real stories in video form.
I am Ashley Ellis and I have been a specialist teenage foster carer for the Placement Plus Scheme for the past 3 years. I was in care myself and lived at Downsell Road when it was a Children’s Home. I was also raised by my grandmother. My early life experiences are one of the main reasons I wanted to become a foster carer.
As an adult I worked for 20 years in Downsell Road with older young people and most of the residential homes across Worcestershire. I have 4 birth children of my own and worked full time whilst bringing up my children as a single mother. At one point my daughter’s friend lived with us for 7 years as well.
I decided to leave my role as a residential worker four years ago, because I wanted to care for young people in a more personal way, rather than in shifts. I remember thinking I would have loved to take some of these children I was working with home with me.
I generally foster 14 or 15 year olds. I like teenagers because they are at a stage in their lives where they are finding themselves and I like being part of that journey. It can be difficult for children who experience trauma and loss in their teenage years, but I enjoy being part of that transition. You need to be consistent and strong, as they often feel they are falling apart inside. My social worker gets back to me quickly and is always there for me. She is a highly experienced person and we regularly talk in a lot of detail about placements.
The best thing you can ever have as a foster carer is a sense of humour. You need to be very broad minded and having attachment training is crucial because you have to remember these children were created and you’ve got to try and unravel some of their layers. You have to look beyond the challenging behaviour and remember them when they were younger. I often do this by looking at photos of them when they were much younger, you can see they have often experienced a very frightening world.
Ashley is pictured above, left, with fellow Placement Plus foster carer, Michelle Aldred.
Claire Robinson & Darren Simon
Claire and I both come from close families and grew up with considerable experience of children with additional needs. Claire’s mum was a special needs teacher and was in charge of the first high school base for children with autism in the county. I also grew up with a younger sister, J, who has learning difficulties.
She is unable to read or write, which makes every day life difficult. She needs support with paying her bills, shopping and going through her post. Her support workers prompt her to tidy her flat, do washing up and laundry as she tends not to focus on those sorts of things.
These experiences led us to both naturally start working with children and young people with more specialised needs. Alongside studying and training to become a solicitor, Claire was for more than two years a carer for young people and adults with various needs. The people she supported were sometimes frail, needing that bit of extra support with meals and cleaning, or more physically disabled, meaning more intense care was required.
Prior to fostering, I cared for children with special needs as a teaching assistant in a special needs school. Many had autism or Aspergers as well as conditions like Downs’ Syndrome and Global Developmental Delay, just like D. It was during this job that I was exposed to the world of fostering for the first time. I saw the impact that fantastic foster carers had on two brothers who were placed in care. Claire and I had often discussed a desire to foster, to make a difference to a child’s life and this experience inspired Claire and I to finally apply to foster.
The assessment process was at times hard-going, but having the opportunity to reflect on our whole lives, our relationships with our family and friends and most importantly as a couple really got us thinking about how life would change with a foster child. We ended up enjoying the time with our assessing social worker and were sorry to see her leave for the last time!
At our approval meeting with our fostering social worker, she advised that they already had a child in mind for us to care for who needed to be moved from another placement. D arrived within eight weeks of our approval. We had always said we would foster any child and given our experiences, we weren’t phased about a child with additional needs and were fully aware of the shortage of carers willing to take on a child with disabilities.
The first two years were happy, sad, emotional, busy and most of all eye opening. D took around a year to truly settle in and calm some of his more extreme moods. In this time we also completed lots of our core training, which we managed to fit in around our jobs.
After the Court process was over, it was clear that long term fostering was going to be the best plan for D. D is one of five looked after siblings and assessments took place to see if he could be placed with his older brother. However, both boys were doing so well in their placements that it was felt that to move them would be detrimental. We make sure that ‘family time’ happens regularly by getting the brothers and sisters together around once or twice a month to enable their relationships to continue developing.
We are really fortunate to have a great working relationship with D’s social worker Jo, from the disabilities team. She has managed to build a connection to D through her visits at home and at school and through specialist techniques like play therapy. Jo has supported us throughout our fostering journey and we are very grateful to her!
Fostering a child with special needs is incredibly rewarding. Whilst their milestones may not be anything like ‘typical’ children of the same age, they seem to mean more to both the child and carer. Seeing D grow and develop over the past two and a half years has been amazing and we are so excited to see what his future looks like. He is very excited to be the ring bearer at our wedding in December and sit at the top table with us. He is a huge part of our family and we wouldn’t be without him!
Darren Simon, Claire Robinson and D
I find being a foster carer a rewarding job, but it can be challenging. In order to provide the best possible care for the children I look after, and to provide the children with stability, security and a positive experience of family life, I need to be well supported by my fostering service and people around me.
I work as part of the Team Around the Looked After Child, and need to be supported by others in that team to ensure that the child receives the best possible care. The level and type of support that I need may change with each child in placement and at different times.
Being a foster carer for eight years, I understand the challenges and emotional toll that fostering can bring to a family, but I do believe that there are steps that foster carers can take to prevent burnout and make their fostering experience a more positive one. One of those steps is to create a strong support network.
Fostering brings challenges that are not understood by a lot of people. Even the most supportive friends and family will not be able to truly understand some of what I will be going through and there may even be things that I cannot share with them due to confidentiality as stated in the fostering contract. This can make fostering a lonely road.
There is something I can do in order to ensure that I do not feel like I am by myself. I can get support from other foster carers. This is important as other foster carers will not question my sanity for deciding to foster children I may only have for a short time or loving children who are hurting. They will support and encourage me. They can also give advice or encouragement with difficult situations that they have perhaps dealt with before. You can talk together about dealing with the struggles associated with caring for a child with FASD and other problems, also share ideas on what has worked for each of you in the past.
Benefits to getting to know other foster families is that, they are have to abide by the same confidentiality. You can get together as families and you will feel less “different”. Once you are fostering, your family will probably look different from typical families. It can be disruptive and noisy. You can get stares and questions when you are out in public. Getting together with other foster families makes you feel more normal.
I have found having the support of other foster carers helpful, especially in times of crisis or transition such as a difficult placement, grieving for a child who has left, or investigations. Their encouragement, experience from having gone through similar situations, and ability to support is important. I run the local support group where I meet other carers and share experiences, learn from each other and get to know others who can become part of my support network. Other ways we can meet carers include, training sessions, mentoring and buddying schemes. All these give opportunities to meet with other carers, to learn from each other, to talk through problems in order to reduce potential social isolation and to talk to those with a shared understanding of the issues.
The Parker Family
We started fostering 7 years ago and I have always been the main carer. Our original approval was 0-18 years, short term and respite care; however, we have recently been asked to take on our two current children, two brothers aged 11 and 8 years) on a long term basis. We feel that the boys fit within our family and are settled in their schools, so when this opportunity came up we were happy to proceed.
Before becoming a foster carer I was a sales manager for an electronics company for many years, initially in the UK and subsequently in Europe. I seemed to be forever travelling and was away from home a lot. I have visited many of western Europe’s major cities but visiting for business and pleasure are two very different experiences. Friends and family were always saying what an interesting job I had but in reality it was mostly just airports, hotels, factories, exhibitions and conferences. Then I hit 50 and began to think that there was more to life and other things I wanted to do.
We first thought about fostering when Pauline saw an advert in the local newspaper. We talked about it over the Christmas period and given that our own children were older (our daughter had already flown the nest ) they just didn’t need us like they used to, we now had the time and space to consider this as a new career so we decided to just go for it. We applied and within 9 months were approved. I gave up my job and Pauline continued her work at a local hospital; a job she enjoyed. I stayed at home and became a full time foster carer and house husband. I wasn’t sure at first but I really took to it. I was able to get more involved with the day to day parenting of the foster kids.
Since approval we have fostered a dozen children; the majority of whom have been sibling groups. It has it’s challenges, but is also very fulfilling and I really enjoy the “nuts and bolts” side of looking after young people, breakfast, the school run etc, which I had largely missed out on with my own kids.
We couldn’t have done it without the help and support of our birth children. The key thing for us when we started fostering was that our kids were already late teens and older and we felt able to bring other children into the household without them feeling pushed out. They are such great role models for the children we have looked after. All our foster children look up to them and would often much rather do activities with them than with us! Our birth children’s friends also often visit the house and have also become like extra big brothers and sisters to the foster kids.
My name is Sarah, and my partner and I have been foster carers for over 4 years now. Previous to that, we adopted Nathan in 2007 at 20 months and then went on to adopt Ruby in 2009 at 10 months. On both occasions we were warmly welcomed into the fostering community and developed a really supportive network amongst foster carers. They supported us by inviting us to social events and activities.
There is always something going on. Nathan and Ruby love being part of this circle; it really took the pressure off introductions. It was because of these two experiences with foster carers from the Redditch and Kidderminster communities that we decided we wanted to be part of this and went straight into fostering; not long after adopting Ruby.
At the Skills to Foster Course we continued to build up our networks. We are a very sociable family and enjoy keeping in touch with people. We think it is important and it’s great for the kids. Having fostered for four years now we have found it particularly rewarding to see how, as a fostering family, we can help create a new chapter in a child or young person’s life; keep their backgrounds alive and help them to build their future.
Worcestershire foster carers have always been so supportive to us and we see it as one big, extended family. We also get lots of support from our fostering social worker and the training programme is great! You never feel like you are on your own. We have made some friends for life.”
We started off in the first year doing respite and short-term fostering and have since gone on to have longer term placements. Our first young person in placement went on to adoption and we have kept in touch. We spend time together at least twice a year. I think it is the little touches that make all the difference when fostering. I like to spend time putting together Memory Boxes for a child or young person to mark special occasions and milestones in their lives.
Fostering has had a very positive impact on our whole family. Our children have grown in sensitivity and I believe are more caring because they’ve been part of a fostering family.
Ingrid Fleury Thompson
Ingrid has been approved for just under one year with Worcestershire and was previously approved with a private provider for 3 years.
Tell me about how you became a foster carer? What motivated you to become a carer?
We started to talk about fostering eight years ago and decided that rather than having another child of our own we would foster instead. My mother, who lives in New Zealand, used to foster and around the time that we were thinking of fostering there was a very high profile case of child neglect and abuse going through the courts, which emphasised the need for more carers. A previous foster child of my mother’s still lives with her, with her own two children and so while it doesn’t always, it can make a huge difference to more than one persons’ future. We took our first step into fostering when we saw an advert here after we moved to the UK in 2010. The whole process took a year in total.
What were you doing before you became a foster carer?
I was, and remain a mother and a teacher. I teach part-time at a primary school in Herefordshire.
What was the assessment process like? How was panel and how did you feel once you’d been approved?
We found the process intensive and really detailed; for good reason. It’s involved and very personal. Panel went really well. As long as you are honest and able to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses you should be alright!
Tell us about your first placement. How was this placement? Talk about your experiences since approval that you’ve learnt from and some of the needs of the young people you are caring for.
Our first placement with Worcestershire is still in placement now. This is a short-term arrangement and he may return home soon. It’s been a perfect process done to a pace which is child centred. It has been collaborative with social workers and the team around the child and family. His school have also been supportive. I learn something new about myself in every placement we have with a young person. Our young person currently in placement has got some special needs: Aspergers and ADHD. It is quite different living with these needs rather than knowing them from just a teaching perspective. My learning from this placement has been, to try not to hurry things. Allow things to unfold at a natural pace. Things do change and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, even in the challenging times.
How has your family adjusted to being a ‘fostering family’?
In every placement our family adjusts slightly differently. As a family you need to expand to include someone new. Once routines are set in place then things become more settled. For our son, fostering has gone really well in the main. He really enjoys it and it has been good for him to learn from these experiences. I always learn from the child. We have lots of laughs with our placements – fostering is an added joy and pleasure to our lives, most of the time…
Who do you turn to after a long day or if you have a concern or worry?
I turn to my husband. I find it interesting how we have different insights and perspectives. Sometimes I might turn to somebody who knows the child, or a friend. I also talk to my mum back in New Zealand. Our social worker, Abbie Oakley, is brilliant too. She is really lovely; clued up and switched on. And in this situation the social workers for our child in placement have been brilliantly supportive too. The photo attached is us at the finish line of the New York marathon – which I had just completed.
Here we talk to Joy Pollock an approved carer this year with her first child now firmly in place and part of the family;
What made you become a foster carer?
I have had it in the back of mind for years – even before we had our first which is 7 years ago now. I found I was always crying over news story about children but saw no point in just crying. It doesn’t help anyone. So we decided to actually do something about it. Why now? Timing is everything, we had finished our family, my son has started school, we had completed a loft conversion so the time was right.
How long have you been fostering?
This is our first placement. She arrived at the beginning of February 2015. We were approved as foster carers on 22nd January, so didn’t have a long wait until our first placement.
Are you currently fostering and what age/sex?
D is a 7 month old baby girl.
Do you currently have your own family – partner/children (ages/sex of children)
At home, I have my husband Tom, who works full time and two children. My daughter, 7 is in year 2 and my son who is 4 is in Reception.
What are the biggest rewards about being a foster carer for Worcestershire Fostering?
Despite having D for a relatively short time, it has been an absolute joy and privilege to look after her and to see her thrive, grow and develop in our care. People may tend to think just of what we can give to a child but, more often than not, it’s what they bring to the family dynamic that is so special. She has progressed and met developmental milestones. Just a giggle or a smile that lights up her whole face makes it worthwhile.
What are the biggest challenges?
The challenges have been around the level of contact I have with birth parents in my own home. Whilst I agreed to do it, and I can see it is in her best interests, it is, nonetheless, a commitment. The challenge is to make it work for me and use the time productively. I look at it as free childcare!
How has fostering affected your own family?
Obviously it does affect family life in more ways than one. My ‘baby’ is no longer the baby but has adjusted well to caring for someone younger than himself. He is gentle and loves her. My eldest enjoys the responsibility of holding a baby and being genuinely helpful, which she was too young to be involved in when her own brother was born. Family dynamics change and it’s important to acknowledge this. I was careful not to have a child placed with us that came between the ages of my two, so we have gone for ‘younger than my youngest’. My reasoning was to mimic what could have happened naturally if I were to have another child. We make sure we intentionally spend separate time with all three to best meet their needs.
How has fostering affected your life in general?
We chose to foster at this stage in life because it was the most seamless transition. I was not in paid work as I had been raising our family, so there was nothing I had to sacrifice or give up to do the job. I feel like I have just extended the pre-school season I have been in anyway. I have a good support network around me in terms of toddler groups and friends with children the same age so we share expertise, resources and sleep deprivation stories. Obviously three children makes life busier than 2, but actually it’s a bit like economies of scale! The more hidden workload comes with meetings, paperwork, LAC (Looked after child) reviews and communications with other agencies.
What is the one question people often ask you when they know you are a foster carer
What made you do it?
How easy was it to be a foster carer for Worcestershire County Council?
Access to information about fostering or adoption was readily available and easy to access. The next step, the ‘Skills to foster’ course did entail my husband taking time off work but it was not a protracted course. The whole process is extremely thorough – which it should be. I felt very proud of my achievement after panel approved us as it was not an easy ride.
How did you find the process at Worcestershire CC?
The form F assessment delved into our past and present in all aspect of life, marriage, finance, parenting style, religious views, cultural stand points etc. and it was, at times quite draining. What it does do, however, is create a very firm foundation to more forward from and the relationship we have with our social worker, who undertook the assessment is good as a result.
What would make the process any easier?
Should it be any easier?!
Can you give me one poignant moment which really made you glad you were a foster carer?
Like your baby’s first smile. That hard slog with broken sleep, dirty nappies, sick on all your clothes and no feedback or encouragement – and then they smile! It makes it all worthwhile. It was a bit like that feeling, when your placement smiled at us, and we knew she was happy and knew us.
What was the one thing that you were concerned about before you started fostering?
My concern has always been the safety and well being of our own children. I didn’t want them to be at risk of being hurt – physically or emotionally. I was also worried about exposure to language they had not heard yet or behaviours that were not age appropriate.
How do you manage when you have to give up/back a foster child?
Don’t know yet! I’ll keep you posted. I think that managing the loss is on going. It doesn’t just happen when they are moved on from your care. With our case, I am reminded every time parents come for contact that she belongs to someone else. We talk a lot about when D may not be with us anymore to help prepare the children and manage their expectation. It helps me too.
Do you feel you get enough support and training from WCC?
Yes. There is too much training to choose from!
If you transferred from another agency, why did you and why did you pick WCC?
I haven’t transferred but I could have considered other agencies when we were looking into fostering. The reason we didn’t was because we had heard that the CC offers better training, resources and support and also, we didn’t want our choice to be motivated my money. I gather some of the private agencies can pay more but it’s not a reason for doing it.
What is the one thing you would say to someone who was considering foster caring?
It’s very rewarding.
I recognise it’s not for everyone, but everyone can have a role to support a foster carer. If you know someone you think would make a good one, encourage them. If you know someone who is, cook them a meal, offer to babysit, take the kids to MacDonald’s to give parents a break, buy a pack of nappies, pass on baby clothes/equipment, help with school runs, bake a cake. These things have all been done for me and it’s what makes the whole thing so worthwhile. It takes a village to raise a child.
Smooth transition to Worcestershire for Carole and John
Carole and John have been Worcestershire foster carers for just over 12 months and currently cared for 3 foster children with differing needs. The couple have been foster carers for a number of years, previously working in several Independent Fostering Agencies, but took the decision in 2014 to move to Worcestershire. They felt the opportunities and support at the previous fostering agency was limited so transferred with a foster child, who was ultimately the responsibility of Worcestershire.
Looking after a teenager and helping her prepare for independent living and work has been very different to caring for a pair of sisters who needed the guidance from Carole and John to learn to grow and become toddlers. But it clearly illustrates the couples resilience and flexibility in order to help more than one child at one time.
The couple claim a major difference between the Independent Fostering Agency and Worcestershire County Council was that they now felt supported, particularly by their social worker, and they feel part of the Worcestershire family, and not like a number. Carole stated that she did not feel she had the support previously but now she knows assistance is only a phone call away. They have met many other Worcestershire carers, which has been a breath of fresh air, especially as they are willing to share their experiences and make them feel part of things.
Carole comments; ‘It is different being a foster carer for Worcestershire as are now more of a community of carers’.
The eldest foster child will be moving on independently later this year with the guidance of Carole and John behind them and the younger siblings are also due to move to adoptive parents, so the challenge of new foster children will evolve once again. Thankfully Worcestershire will be there every step of the way to fully offer the support needed.
Rose McGovern and Brian Salmon
I was first approved in October 2000 as a single carer, and Brian and I were approved to foster as a couple in February 2012.
As I had already been approved in 2000, the assessment process as a couple was very much the same from my point of view. Brian did find it a little time consuming as he was in full-time employment at the time, but understood the reasons for such complex questions and the need to attend the relevant courses in preparation for fostering. We are approved as respite carers with an age range 0-12.
Brian had to “settle in” to fostering once he retired from being in the motor industry for 40 years. We both enjoy the children we have and each one has left us with special memories, which has had a positive impact on both of us.
My grandchildren stay with us occasionally and they look forward to us having foster children – especially if they are in their age range! I think we have gained a little more compassion and learnt to listen to the young people, and our extended families are more understanding of the situations the children come from initially.
I think the most challenging part of being foster carers is to maintain the routines and boundaries set by the mainstream carers when their children are in respite, and to respect the children and consider their wishes within
reason. Several children we have had regularly over the years have now successfully been adopted and we find this very rewarding to know we played a part in helping the transition for these children.
Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising and I would encourage other carers to consider attending these events as the public literally will get feedback from the horse’s mouth.
I have begun helping out at recruitment events and leave Brian at home with the children. I attended an event at Hartlebury Museum which was a beautiful setting and a very relaxed atmosphere. Word of mouth is always the best form of advertising and I would encourage other carers to consider attending these events as the public literally will get feedback from the horse’s mouth.
Michael Percy and George Rogers
Why did you want to become foster carers?
A friend of ours had adopted a little girl and we were involved in the whole process. We then started talking about us being able to offer a child a home, as before we were together we had thought about this. We looked at all options and decided that fostering for a Council would be most suitable for us, due to the continued support that is available.
As a same sex couple how do you feel you were treated by Worcestershire County Council when you first enquired to become a foster carer?
We both feel that we were treated extremely well by Worcestershire County Council. We had approached other councils initially and had not been treated well at all. In fact one, during the initial home visit, actively discouraged us.
How did you find the approval process?
We found the whole process to be relatively straight forward. Yes, they do go into your history in great depth but we never once found it to be invasive and our social worker made the process quite enjoyable.
You have been approved as foster carers for nearly 2 years. How have you found becoming a foster carer?
The first two years has definitely been a learning curve for both of us and the child in our care. We were completely new to parenting and maybe slightly naïve to the reality of it all.
The child that was placed with us came with their own issues and we had to deal with those head on.
Worcester County Council Fostering Service and ISL, in particular, were invaluable during that settling in period and have continued to support us over the last 2 years.
Initially we were approved as short-term carers, however, as time went on we bonded very well with the child in our care. Once the case had gone through the court process and the child was to be placed in long term care we decided that we would like to take on that responsibility, a decision that was supported by Worcestershire County Council.
Do you feel as carers you have been well supported. Do you attend foster carer support groups?
It is reassuring to know that someone is available at the other end of the phone at all times, especially in stressful times and there have been a few of those.
We don’t get the opportunity to attend support groups as we live in Birmingham and both work. We have attended recruitment drop-in events and use these as a dual purpose, for networking, supporting and raising
awareness of fostering.
What do you think of the foster carer activities/Fun Day events/Training?
We have nearly finished all of our core training which has been beneficial. The Fun Day (in July) was a great experience for us and very well organised. We look forward to attending again this year so come say hello!
Hi, I’m Leah Harris
Jason and I have been approved foster carers for Worcestershire County Council for the past 2 years for 0-5 year olds.
We have 3 birth children aged 9, 4 and 1. We foster children of a similar age to our own birth children so that they can join in with similar activities.
Before fostering I was a full-time nursery nurse. I gave up my job and we moved so we had a spare room, with a view to fostering.
I was 2 years old when my mum and dad, Jackie and Paul Wooldridge (also Worcestershire County Council foster carers for 25 years) started fostering and my earliest memories of fostering are of having an extended family at the age of 6 years old. My aunt and uncle, Deborah and Nick, have adopted and are also foster carers. My grandma is a respite carer and we have a huge extended family!!
My parents fostered teenagers to begin with and then as we got older this changed and they fostered younger children. I’ve never had any negative feelings about being part of a fostering family. At school friends were impressed and intrigued that I was part of a fostering family. It made me quite popular.
We have a really good carer support network; with Marilyn, Adele and Rose only minutes away for support on our doorstop. The training with
Worcestershire is also great. Our first young person in placement was dual heritage and we went on the ‘Valuing Diversity’ course which highlighted lots of things we hadn’t thought about before.
I’ve never had any negative feelings about being part of a fostering family
I wouldn’t change being a foster carer. I always wanted to do it. We love doing it. Our children love doing it!
Dave and I have been with Support Care for five years. We had thought about fostering for a little while before we decided to contact Worcestershire County Council’s Fostering Service and suggested the Support Care scheme.
The idea of helping families in this way appealed very much to us and so we went ahead with the preparation training and became part of the Support Care Team.
Support Care is a small team within the Fostering Service whose original aim was to provide support to birth families who were finding it difficult to cope with a child in their family and were asking for help.
We provide respite by taking a child or young person for a weekend, once a week or once a fortnight, depending on the needs of the family. We also offer a friendly ear to a child and give appropriate help and advice to the parents when needed. Some children aren’t keen to stay a night away from home and so we would be able to give them a day’s respite.
The idea of helping families in this way appealed very much to us, and therefore, we went ahead with the preparation training and became part of the Support Care Team.
Due to changes within the Fostering Service, we now offer support to relatives and family friends caring for children whose parents cannot look after them. Kinship caring can make a huge impact on the lives of all concerned and the sacrifices and challenges that the relatives go through in
order to care for a family member can be overwhelming.
The Kinship Support Team has embraced their new role wholeheartedly and can provide respite to these families, if required.
Kinship caring can make a huge impact on the lives of all concerned and the sacrificies and challenges that the relatives go through in order to care for a family member can be overwhelming.
The child we are currently looking after was the first child Dave and I looked after when we first started with the Support Care 5 years ago, and we looked after him for one day a fortnight for just over a year. He has special needs and requires lots of attention and plenty of activities to keep him occupied. He now attends a residential school and a year ago we were asked if we could look after him during the school holidays.
We enjoy having him very much. It can be rewarding but it can also be demanding at times. We have plenty of support from team members, our Senior Social Worker for Support Care, and from the school too. But it makes us appreciate just how hard it can be to care full time for someone else’s child who may display various challenging behaviours and the importance of providing as much assistance and support to families as possible.