A new recruitment drive has been launched in Sunderland to find more foster carers.
With an enhanced training and a new financial support scheme, Together for Children is hoping more people will come forward to take on this vital role.
The organisation, which manages Sunderland’s children’s services, says under the new payment scheme foster carers could earn up to £34,320 plus allowances per year.
In addition the Fostering Portal provides carers with online training and access to further reading and research and this is backed up with social worker support.
Together for Children’s Independent Fostering Agency received a good Ofsted rating last year with inspectors praising stable placements with foster carers who are committed to providing nurturing and effective care for young people.
The agency has over 250 foster carers who come from all walks of life, including those who are married, cohabiting, single and same sex couples.#
There are few restrictions to becoming a foster carer, although carers must be dedicated to a child within their care and undergo a thorough assessment.
Together for Children offer continual training and support as well as a social programme that allows carers and children in care to meet up and share their experiences.
By 2022 it is estimated that there will be 77,000 children in care in England, an increase of 20% since 2010. In Sunderland there are currently over 600 children in care, with the vast majority placed with foster carers.
The majority of children in foster care flourish within the new environment provided by a foster family and that’s a point that was recognised in Together for Children’s latest Fostering Ofsted report, which describes how foster carers act as positive role models.
Jill Colbert, Chief Executive of Together for Children, said: “The majority of our foster carers live in Sunderland, however we accept carers from across the region. And our carers are of all ages, from those in their 20s and 30s to some much older, they all have special qualities that our children and young people benefit from.
“We encourage anyone who has an interest in supporting children unable to live with their birth family to get in touch and find out more. We try our best to place brothers and sisters together and carers who look after more than one child receive a payment for each child in their care.”
Weekly payments are designed to cover the basic needs of a child or children in foster care and takes into account transport, clothing, food, personal and household items. The new scheme brings Together for Children foster carer payments in line with other local authorities and aims to support the recruitment of carers.
Debbie Collins, 44, from Washington and her partner, Billy Lambert, 59, have fostered six babies over seven years.
Debbie said: "Our friends adopted three children and I started to think how we might be able to help little ones in need.
“I still work in a distribution warehouse, although I reduced my working hours to two night shifts a week, which enables me to attend fostering training sessions and meetings.
"It is just so rewarding to be able to help and to see a baby develop."
Together for Children welcomes a range of foster carers from those who provide respite care to other foster carers, to those who foster babies prior to adoption and those who provide foster care on a semi-permanent basis.
Anyone interested in finding out more is welcome to attend one of Together for Children’s monthly Fostering Information Evenings or to visit https://togetherforchildren.org.uk/fostercare or alternately to call 0191 561 2223.