FOSTER parents are desperately needed to give some of Sunderland’s most vulnerable children a second chance. Here, STEVE OVERSBY, Director, Barnardo’s North East, makes a personal plea to Echo readers.
“These are the experiences we never forget; they shape who we are and leave an ever-lasting imprint on our adult lives.
“Unfortunately not everyone has the chance to look back on their formative years as a time of fun, love and laughter.
“For many children in the care system, the love and stability of a family home remains out of reach, and their future could be just as uncertain.
“More foster carers for these vulnerable children are urgently needed. The most recent calculations estimate that 8,600 are needed across the UK, with a shortage of around 450 foster carers in the North East alone.
“Barnardo’s in the North East needs to almost double its number of available carers this year and has a particular shortfall on Wearside.
“As a result of this current shortfall, growing up in foster care often involves multiple house moves, with a third of all children in foster care having two or more different homes and therefore families in just one year.
“Alongside a childhood filled with memories of packed bags and goodbyes, this results in considerable instability for children with nowhere to call home or a family of their own. Understandably this can have a lasting effect on their adult lives. Care leavers are more likely to become homeless, suffer from a mental health disorder, be unemployed and spend time in prison.
“Barnardo’s believes every child has the right to a stable home. As a fostering agency, the charity strives to recruit foster carers for the children who are often deemed ‘harder to place’ due to either their age, being part of a sibling group, their ethnicity or a disability.
“Not enough people are coming forward to foster and meet the needs of these children, but there is a particular urgent need for more foster carers from the North East region.
“The number of children in the care system in the UK generally has risen for the seventh year in a row to more than 90,000 and Barnardo’s is looking for people with patience and commitment to provide a stable home for the most vulnerable children in the care system, in particular those aged 10 and over.
“Fostering is a caring career, for those who feel they have a lot of love to give.
“The need for more foster carers is critical. The government has made huge strides in improving the adoption system and aiding adopter recruitment in recent years. However, the majority of children in the care system need foster families, not adopters. Foster care must not become the poor relation.
“A third of all children in foster care will currently have two or more placements in one year, due to the lack of suitable foster carers available.
“Many people feel the challenge of fostering is too great, but Barnardo’s offers 24 hour support and advice throughout both the training process and your fostering career.
“We want to hear from anybody who is interested in fostering. Barnardo’s does not exclude anyone from consideration on the grounds of marital status, gender, sexual orientation, disability or employment status.
“There is no upper age limit although there is a minimum age of 21. We are also keen to speak to older people with life experience, whether they are parents themselves or not and who are interested and willing to help create life-long memories to cherish, for a child in need of a loving home.”
l For more information or to have an informal chat, contact Barnardo’s fostering team on 492 9000 or visit www.barnardos.org.uk/fostering.