A teenager who has found a future thanks to foster care has spoken of his experiences.
More than 400 children across Wearside are in foster care through the newly launched organisation, Together for Children, which has taken on the running of services from Sunderland City Council.
Welcoming young people into your family is hugely rewarding, especially the feeling that you’ve had a positive impact on their life.Maurice Davis
But it says more people are needed to join the 270 carers it already has to offer temporary homes for young people in the city.
One family has opened up about the help it has offered as it backs Foster Care Fortnight, which is running until Sunday.
Billy Hardy has been in foster care with the same Sunderland family for 11 years.
The 17-year-old moved to Ryhope to live with foster carers, husband and wife Maurice and Dorothy Davis, in 2006.
He said: “It was difficult at first.
“I thought I wouldn’t like coming here, but Maurice and Dorothy always looked after me like I was their own child and I started to get used to my new family and settle in.”
With the help and support of his foster carers Billy, who attends Southmoor Academy Sixth Form and hopes to go on to study maths at university, has managed to open up to friend
about his home life, gaining confidence along the way.
This new-found confidence has led to Billy offering his time to volunteer, giving up his lunch breaks to help with his school’s anti-bullying campaign and acting as an advocate on behalf of other young people.
In March, Billy was presented with a Sunderland Young Achiever Award for his ongoing efforts in volunteering.
He added: “I’ve heard people say that young people who need foster care must be bad, but that’s not the case and everyone should be given a chance.
“We all need care for different reasons and good foster care can change someone’s life.
“Three or four years ago I couldn’t talk about my situation at home, even to my friends, but thanks to the support I’ve had I’m now confident enough to talk about it.”
Maurice, 70, and Dorothy, 68, who have two adult children of their own, have been fostering for 32 years and decided to foster after seeing an advertisement.
Since then they have looked after more than 60 children, with Billy being in their care the longest.
Maurice said: “I would encourage anyone thinking it might be for them to give fostering a try.
“It’s important that fostering fits in with your family life, especially if you have children of your own, but families can start by offering respite or weekend care to test the water and see how they get on.
“Welcoming young people into your family is hugely rewarding, especially the feeling that you’ve had a positive impact on their life.
“That’s what has kept us fostering for so long.”
Together for Children is looking to recruit a number of new foster carers, particularly for older children and sibling groups.
Carers are offered financial support to cover the cost of caring for the child.
For more information visit www.togetherforchildren.org.uk/families/fostering or call (0191) 520 5553.