Charity in appeal for foster families

Dee and George Collins.

Dee and George Collins.

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HUNDREDS of vulnerable children are desperately in need of a home in Wearside, says a charity.

Barnardo’s North East has launched an urgent appeal for foster families, particularly those able to care for older and vulnerable children and groups of siblings.

The charity said there are at least 400 new foster families needed in the region over the next 12 months, and nationally 43 per cent of children in care in England were aged 10 and over – including 16 and 17-year-olds.

Jonathan Ewen, director Barnardo’s North East, said: “While there is considerable focus on placing younger children, the needs of older children and siblings needing to be placed together, are being forgotten. There needs to be a range of placements so that the system works for all children.

“All children deserve a loving home and older children need looking after just as much as infants and babies in order to thrive. We urgently need more people to consider becoming foster parents to children over the age of 10.”

Dee and George Collins, from Washington, have fostered three teenage girls during the last three years.

Dee, 47, said: “Before I became a foster carer I didn’t realise how much support children need.

“But it didn’t faze me and I learned a lot from the first child I cared for.

“You think you can take a child and change them, but the reality is so different and that, for me, was when I had to change my thinking.

“You realise what you can do for these children can make a big impact on their life.”

Mr Ewen said between January and November 2011, Barnardo’s North East had 237 children referred to the charity for foster placements – but only had nine new sets of carers available to take children into their homes.

•Barnardo’s wants to hear from anybody who is interested in finding out more about fostering and adoption, and provides full training and support to potential foster carers.

The charity said it does not exclude anyone from consideration on the grounds of sexual orientation, race, marital status, gender, disability or employment status. To find out more, call 08000 277 280 or visit www.barnardos.org.uk/fosteringandadoption.

IT was when they found themselves with an empty nest that Dee and George Collins decided to become foster parents.

Dee, 47, and George, 57, have fostered three young girls in the three years since then, at the time aged 12, 15 and 17.

Their last placement ended in August 2011 and they are waiting for their next young person.

Dee said: “When my daughters left home we decided to look into fostering. We had a spare room and I’ve always enjoyed working with children.

“We rang Barnardo’s to make an enquiry and the following day they called us, sent us some information and then we began the fostering process. The process was really enjoyable. We attended an open night and we did training, which I really enjoyed. It makes you think and challenges you.”

Dee said it was important for foster parents to have a spare room children can call their own, and there are some health and safety changes they would have to make to their home.

“Then there is being ready in your mind, being relaxed and welcoming, and remembering that the child is going to be as nervous as you,” she said.

“Having a sense of humour is also helpful.

“In normal, everyday life, you don’t hear about the horrors of what goes on in some people’s worlds.”

Dee said Barnardo’s were always at the end of the phone if foster parents needed advice, and a social worker visits every few weeks.

She added: “If you have a heart for doing it, then pick up the phone, ring Barnardo’s and make some enquiries.

“There is support all along the way and if you decide that it isn’t for you, then you can make that choice.

“The benefits are that you have opened up yourself to helping somebody – the fact you have made a change, however small.

“It is great to give somebody a chance, somebody who has been knocked back and needs somebody to give them another chance. It is a very positive and wonderful thing to do.”