Fiona Scott Media Consultanccy

As leading BAME fostering agency Banya celebrates its 25th anniversary, the team is appealing for more foster carers to come forward as the need post pandemic is greater than ever.

Set up in South London in 1996 by Nyasha Gwatidzo and her late husband Dr Paul Soper, Banya's directors are all black women and 98 per cent of the staff are also female.

Nyasha explained: "Here at Banya we pride ourselves on supporting our foster carers through their fostering journey, whether they are new to fostering or more experienced. As a result, we are on average 10 times more successful when it comes to making successful placements as we support both the children who need excellent care and the adults providing that care."

She stressed the fact that more foster carers are urgently needed as more children are in need of a safe home environment post pandemic.

"I started Banya because of my own personal experience as a foster carer and running a therapeutic children's home. I believe that every child deserves a loving family and Banya strives to provide a safe and secure home for children who have often suffered neglect, abuse or other trauma. Sadly, the number of children coming into care has increased due to the Covid pandemic with more family breakdowns," she said.

The London-based foster agency has become national and now serves children and foster carers not just in London, but also Birmingham, Eastbourne, Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Yorkshire and is currently looking for more foster homes in Greater Manchester with families prepared to look after children with complex needs and backgrounds.

Cindy and Lina Da Silva Graham, who live in the New Forest, have been fostering with Banya for several years. Cindy has been fostering for many years before their marriage.

Cindy said: "We find being foster parents very rewarding and the best thing about fostering is when you know that you have made a massive difference to the children and teenagers' lives."

Nyasha and her team have had to face many difficult issues during lockdown and the covid pandemic - having to move some children to more covid-safe environments, supporting carers with underlying health and mental health issues and finding it more difficult to place children in need during the pandemic.

There has also been a huge increase in domestic violence within families and people with mental health problems, all of which increases the number of children needing foster care.

The Banya team is now planning to celebrate its 25 years as a leading UK fostering agency with its foster carers, families and children, and will also be supporting Foster Care Fortnight from 10-23 May 2021. Nyasha has come a long way since she left her rural village in Zimbabwe to study in the UK. She now runs the foster agency, nine successful social enterprises, events and a charity. She has also recently been given the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Thames Valley Business & Community Awards.

She said: "I love what I do, as it's very rewarding to match a family with a child, who needs a home, and being able to make a huge impact and difference to that child. I feel privileged to work with these children and the carers, who are my unsung heroes."

* Image shows Nyasha Gwatidzo, the founder of Banya

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