Sheffield fostering snub row

Steven and Kylie Cocker, of Gleadless, Sheffield, with sons Thomas and Jacob, aged two and five.
Steven and Kylie Cocker, of Gleadless, Sheffield, with sons Thomas and Jacob, aged two and five.
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A MARRIED couple from Sheffield have been turned down as foster parents – because the council claims their spare bedroom is ‘too small’ for a little child.

Steven and Kylie Cocker own their three-bed semi in Gleadless and have two sons aged five and two.

Kylie herself spent seven years with foster parents while growing up – something she hoped would make her an ideal candidate to take on one of Sheffield’s 538 children in care.

But after attending information evenings, completing application forms, and undergoing a home visit, Steven and Kylie were told their third bedroom – used by generations for the youngest child of a house – was too small.

Steven, a cutler, said today: “We were shocked. It was the only reason we were given.

“The council said there wasn’t enough room for a bed, clothes, and a child to spend time – but we were hoping to take a little child up to the age of six.

“Our house belonged to my grandma, and my mum grew up in the very same bedroom until she was 21!

“All the houses round here have the same size bedroom, and all our neighbours have had children growing up in theirs.

“Our house comes under council tax Band B, and we are charged by the council each month for three bedrooms. Now that same council says one isn’t big enough to be a bedroom.”

Steven, aged 27, and Kylie, 23, have two boys – Jacob, five, and Thomas, two – who share one of the bigger bedrooms in their house on Durlstone Crescent.

Kylie was taken into care aged 11, and lived with two foster families until she was 18.

Steven said: “We wanted to offer a home to a child under six so they would be close in age to our own two.

“And, because my wife has been in care, she wanted to change things for another looked-after child.

“We knew we couldn’t make a huge difference to the thousands of children in care across Britain, but we thought we could make a small difference to a child that needed not only a home but a family.

“Our reason for rejection seems to give a lot of emphasis to a bedroom and not to a child. We were offering a place in our family, not just our house. That’s what every child in care wants.”

Sheffield Council currently has 538 looked-after children – most in foster care – and around 280 foster carers. It aims to recruit 40 new foster carers a year.

Service spokesman Jon Banwell said: “It’s really important we follow regulations to the letter when it comes to potential foster families and homes.

“What is right for our own families isn’t necessarily right for a looked-after child. Regulations are much stricter, because it’s someone else’s child.

“Unfortunately not everyone makes it, but that shouldn’t stop potential carers coming forward. Becoming a foster carer can be truly rewarding. I would encourage everyone thinking about it to come forward.”

Information evenings are every six weeks at the Quaker Meeting House in Sheffield city centre. The next is on April 16 at 5.45pm.

Families are needed particularly for children aged eight and up, siblings, teenagers, and young people who would otherwise be remanded into a secure unit.

Call 0114 273 5075 or visit www.sheffieldfostering.com for information.