Fostering veteran congratulated for 25 years' service
28 November, 2016
After two and a half decades of giving vulnerable young people a head start in life, Rachael (Rae) Parsons has finally retired at the impressive age of 87.
Rae, from Cefn Glas has been taking in young people since November 1991, sharing her home and providing guidance and support via the Supported Lodgings scheme.
The council-run scheme sees providers offer accommodation in a safe and supportive home environment to young people aged 16-21 who are leaving residential or foster care. The aim of the scheme is to help the young people develop the practical skills and emotional stability they need to live independently.
After a stint in the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF), Rae then settled in Bridgend where she married and had four daughters.
With the loss of her late husband, and the fact that all four daughters had left home, Rae found herself wanting to do something with her spare time.
One day, Rae saw an advert in the local paper, looking for people to welcome students into their homes so she decided to apply. Soon after Rae applied it became apparent that at the time the scheme was specifically for young offenders. However, this didn’t deter her and she continued with her application.
The Rae’s of this world are few and far between, and as the number of looked-after people in Bridgend County Borough who are over the age of sixteen continues to increase, more caring people are needed to come forward and provide a home environment and support. However, many people don’t consider providing placements for young people, holding the stereotypical view that they will be troublesome.
Rae disagrees that all young people in care are naughty or hard work. She firmly believes that the young people who she has supported have positively changed her life just as much as she changed theirs.
Rae said: “The youngsters who have stayed with me have been a lot of fun and they’ve kept me young. At the end of the day, they are human beings who simply need someone they can talk to, someone who cares and can give them direction. There is good in every young person, you just need to find it.”
Rae is proof that the supported lodgings scheme can be extremely beneficial for young people, particularly when they are shown support, respect and care.
Rae continued: “Quite often I bump into the people who stayed with me over the years. It’s always wonderful to see them and hear of their successes - they always say thanks for my support. Several still pop by to the house for a cuppa or to have tea. The majority of them work, have settled down or run their own home, which makes what I do all worthwhile. There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing that I have helped the young people to improve their lives.”
Jade, one of the young people who lived with Rae and is still in touch with her to this day, cannot speak highly enough of her, citing her support and guidance as the main reason she settled down and didn’t go off the rails.
Jade said: “Rae was so welcoming, understanding, lovely, caring, and always thought about how I was feeling. In all the time I was around the care system, Rae’s home was the only place I ever felt settled. That was down to Rae, no one else! Instantly, Rae came across as a firm friend and someone who I could tell anything, and that did mean a lot.
“Rae is like a second mum. She’s amazing and the fact that years later, people are still going out of their way to go up to her to express their gratitude is testament to her hard work, commitment and dedication. That advert changed her life, my life and many more.”
It’s clear that Rae has absolutely loved being a Supported Lodgings provider for well over two decades, even during the more challenging times.
“It wasn’t always smooth but the key is not to back down when faced with challenges, and lay down ground rules right from the beginning,” Rae said.
“Discipline doesn’t do any harm and actually, most needed it. My military background definitely gave me an advantage though.
“Whenever a new person would come to live with me, I would always be apprehensive, as would they. However, I recognised how hard it was for the young person as they were coming to live in someone else’s house. Sometimes you’ve got to put yourself in their shoes and definitely not judge.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it and wouldn’t change anything because I love having kids in the house. If I had to go back 25 years, I would still take young people into my home, even the more challenging ones. The support I’ve received from my social worker has been absolutely fantastic. It’s been a wonderful experience and if I’m honest, I’m gutted to retire.”
Supported Lodgings provides a stepping stone towards independence and has provided many young people with positive outcomes as a direct result of the scheme.
The council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Services and Equalities, Councillor Hailey Townsend, said: “Supported Lodgings offers vulnerable young people the stability and loving homes which are needed for them to progress onto adulthood and reach their full potential.
“We are extremely grateful for everything Rae has done for the Supported Lodgings scheme. She deserves recognition for everything she has done. She is a special person who must be congratulated for the dedication she has shown over the last twenty-five years.
“Rae has given many young people the opportunity to change their lives – she taught them life skills, but more importantly she listened, cared and never judged. We wish her well on her retirement.
“We always need more people to become Supported Lodgings providers so that we can continue to offer this important scheme. I would urge people to think about how they can make a difference.”
Supported Lodgings providers receive extensive training and full support, plus receive an allowance for their role.
For more information on fostering, please call Bridgend Foster Care on 01656 642674 or visit www.bridgendfostercare.wales.
Photo: Rachael Parsons and Jade