“You’re not going home. You’re leaving your family. You’re going to live with someone that you don’t know. We’re not even sure who that is yet.”
A frightening prospect that is a reality for many children entering the foster care system in Nottingham.
What’s more, such children often arrive at the unfamiliar doorstep of their new ‘homes’ empty handed, having few or no personal belonging with them.
MyBagCharity is an organisation that is attempting to prevent situations like this by providing children with a bag containing several items that they can call their own. The bags are intended to maintain a child’s self-esteem when going through such difficult times.
Founder of the charity, Nicola Barber, 30, says: “The whole point of the charity is to reduce the frightening experience that children have when entering foster care.”
Nicola has first hand experience of the trauma that children often face in the care system as she has fostered children herself.
“It is my aim to help the most vulnerable children in our community.”
NICOLA BARBER, FOUNDER OF MYBAGCHARITY
She explains: “I just love kids and it is my aim to help the most vulnerable children in our community.”
“I once had two brothers turn up in a police car just four days before Christmas with literally the clothes they were wearing, a toothbrush and that’s it. And that’s hard to see.”
Nicola, who lives in Arnold, Nottingham, set up the charity with her Dad, Stuart Ferguson, in May 2018. By July, the pair had successfully raised enough money to deliver their first bags to Nottingham City Council for social workers to give to children entering the system.
“I just wanted to make a difference. When we were fostering, we were helping the one or two children at a time, but we knew that there was something else we could do.”
Initially the charity focused on providing bags for children in Nottingham city and aimed to generate enough funds to distribute 300 bags a year. MyBag has now been able to expand and provides bags to care centres in wider Nottinghamshire.
“Keep up the good work!” Says John Cooper, Fostering Recruitment Coordinator at Nottingham City Council.
John says: “The bags make a huge difference not only to the children, but the social workers too as it means they have one less thing to worry about.”
With the average foster care placement lasting 18 months, children in the system tend to move around and it is social worker’s job to deliver this information to them.
Christmas time can be difficult for children in foster care as it is a time when Nicola says: “kids want security. They want to be cared for. They want to be loved.” A child may feel a lack of stability in their life especially during the festive period.
A pet peeve of Nicola’s is hearing people say: “I wish I could foster, but I can’t.” She wants to spread the message that although fostering is not possible for everyone, you can still impact children within foster care by making donations to the charity.
“The difference that the bags make to some children when they enter the system, it’s life changing for them.”