Fostering agency helping children to Shine despite a tough start to life
PUBLISHED: 11:59 11 January 2019
The glitz and glamour of the festive season has faded and the grey reality of going back to work has set in.
Adult life may feel like a constant conveyor belt, of work, eat, sleep repeat, with a side order of January money budgeting, but as a grown-up, there is an element of control about the direction of your future, whether it be your goals, your job or simply where you live.
But for a group of children in the care system, the experience of being a faceless statistic on the conveyor belt of life, without any control, is an everyday reality.
Shifted from home to home with little say in the matter, the experience can feel like being churned out through a human factory, devoid of emotion and choices.
Concerned by the bleak existence and “impersonal process” facing many young people in the system, a South Woodford agency was set up to help children feel supported and see their “future as a fantastic gift and not a burden”.
“We can’t undo the past, but we can create better lives for our children, here and now, and when they move on,” said Shine fostering director Khushbir Green.
“Far too often the experience of being in care is like being pushed through on a conveyor belt – you’re just part of an impersonal process. That can’t be right. We have always believed that children in care deserve the very best and that is why we set up Shine.”
Based in George Lane, the organisation prides itself on being inventive and creative and enables children to feel valued and good about their experiences of foster care.
From taking children on holiday for the first time to holding music workshops and days out, the young people are stimulated and immersed in activities that a lot of people living with permanent carers and parents take for granted.
“We do holidays, camping, half-term activities – our full-time education co-ordinator is always searching for new opportunities and fun new experiences for the children,” added Khushbir.
“For example, the children have been to exhibitions, theatre, art and music workshops, international basketball and Premier League football matches.
“They have been challenged by treetop rope-walks in Battersea Park – and succeeded.
“We have had children who had never been to a forest, so we went to one where the children learned about the trees and forest ecosystem.”
The agency looks after children from newborn to 18 and works under the motto of “once a child in Shine always a child of Shine”.
“The sad and difficult issue is that often children in care never have a holiday experience – especially, say, going on an aeroplane, going to the beach etc,” said Khushbir.
“We wanted to create memories for our children to last a lifetime and to do it in a special way.
“We took the children last year to the Isle of Man after raising funds. It was a very emotional and rewarding.
“The children had a fab time and for all of them it was their first time on a plane.”
Shine funds the experience by holding money-raising initiatives throughout the year, including art auctions and events.
It also trains and supports foster carers to provide enriching family homes for the children.
In addition it has a young mentor and children’s champion programme which sees adults who have been fostered support others through advocacy and mentoring role.
Khushbir added: “We have made lots of differences to our children’s lives.
“Though we do not have control of their total journey, we make sure that while they are with us they have experiences they would not have had otherwise.
“It really does differ from child to child, but what we do see is that they all become more settled, get on better at school and college, more confident but most of all the quality of their lives is transformed by their foster care.
“From having chaotic lives, where they may have been neglected, abused or exploited, they find stability, care, warmth, security and a real chance for a better future.”
The service needs foster carers in east London. If you think you can help call Shine for an informal chat on 020 8530 7679. To donate visit https://bit.ly/2H1rWCk