special job for special person

MORE people like great grandmother Rita Pitches are urgently needed to help vulnerable teenagers who can be a bit of a handful. Stevenage resident Rita, 70, is a foster carer who specialises in looking after young people who are on remand to appear in cou

MORE people like great grandmother Rita Pitches are urgently needed to help vulnerable teenagers who can be a bit of a handful.

Stevenage resident Rita, 70, is a foster carer who specialises in looking after young people who are on remand to appear in court.

She said: "Some of these children don't seem to have anybody to turn to and I've always been able to sit down and talk to them, and sometimes it will all come out about how they got into trouble."

She explained: "They come to me for a few months before they go back to court.


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"Of course it's often challenging, looking after a troubled teenager, but I have rules and boundaries and I tell them that they start with a clean slate with me."

Rita and her husband, Chris, have four children of their own, nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

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Rita has been fostering since her own children were young, taking teenagers since 1992.

"I don't always solve their problems and I don't always get it right," she admits, "but I think that if I help them somewhere along the line then I'm happy.

"You want every story to have a happy ending but unfortunately you can't always have that."

Hertfordshire County Council's specialist fostering project manager, Sally Beaumont, says more specialist foster carers like Rita are urgently needed for teenagers with more challenging needs.

"These are young people who have had particularly bad experiences - either disruption in their home life or at school, and some have been in trouble with the law," she said.

"It's really important to find a home environment for them, so we're hoping to attract carers who are interested in helping vulnerable 11 to 17 year olds."

Specialist carers receive training and ongoing support and are paid a higher fee of £600 per week in recognition of the more challenging service they provide.

County councillor Jane Pitman, lead member for children's services, said: "This area of foster care is particularly demanding, but having the support of a secure home environment at a difficult time in their lives can make a real difference to young people at risk.

"Specialist foster caring should appeal to people who want to put something back in their own community and play a part in turning around the life of a young person."

To find out more about specialist foster caring, call Sally Beaumont on 01438 843781 or log on to www.hertsdirect.org/fostering

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