The five Tees Valley councils have joined together to raise awareness about fostering and to recruit foster carers from across the region.
There are more than 1,300 looked after children from the Tees Valley who, for various reasons, cannot live with their own families. The ‘Tees Valley Fostering’ campaign has been launched this week by Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Hartlepool, and Redcar & Cleveland Borough Councils in a drive to find more foster carers.
The five councils want to recruit more foster carers who are interested in fostering sibling groups and children aged over 10 years old on a ‘long term’ basis, which is over two years and usually until the young person no longer requires the placement, and is able to live independently. Having more of those types of foster carers means that more sibling groups can stay together and fewer children will be placed outside the Tees Valley.
The campaign begins this week with a series of information events and advertising on local buses. It aims to dispel the myths that often prevent people from coming forward to foster. The support provided by each Tees Valley council to people who foster will also be highlighted and people will be directed to a website to get more information and make an enquiry.
Karen King, 45, from Marske, fosters for her Local Authority and looks after children aged between 11 and 18 on a long term basis until they are able to live independently. Karen, said: “I was at an age when all my friends had settled down and had children and I thought there must be more rewarding ways of spending my spare time so I decided to foster for my local authority. I was pleased to find out that you don’t have to be married or in a relationship to foster and that you can be any age.
“There are so many reasons why I love fostering but it’s wonderful to watch a child start to smile more and grow in confidence because you have built up a level of trust and have reassured them that you won’t let them down. There is no better feeling than seeing them achieve things they may never had tried or had the opportunity to do.
“I’d encourage anyone to foster with their Local Authority, as it’s reassuring to know you’re part of their team whose only interests are in the welfare of the children, as well as knowing that the team trust you to make day-to-day decisions about the children in your care. You have nothing to lose by asking for more information and deciding whether it could be right for you. You may just change a child’s life.”
Carol and Andrew Dixon, from Darlington currently foster for their Local Authority and are approved to look after children and teenagers on a short term basis, as well as in emergencies. They said: “We decided to foster, as we have children of our own and have also worked with children in our jobs so it seemed like a logical step forward. We take pleasure in knowing that we’re giving a home and a family to children who need our help.
“We decided to foster with our Local Authority due to the support and the training that you receive, as well as links to other foster carers. We’d recommend fostering to anyone, it’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Just pick up the phone and call your Local Authority, you’ll be glad you did.”
Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Ann McCoy, a spokesperson for Tees Valley Fostering, said: “Every single child within the Tees Valley is important to us and we have a duty to do everything we can to find safe and secure foster placements for the children who need to be looked after.
“The reality here in the Tees Valley is that there is always a high demand for suitable foster carers, yet not enough are coming forward. We need to look at new ways of working together as a network of Tees Valley Local Authorities to ensure that we’re increasing our resources and expertise to reach more people and encourage them to foster.
“We are looking for people from all age groups and backgrounds who have a spare bedroom and can offer a child a loving, stable home, and make them feel a part of their family.
“There has never been a more important time to find out about becoming a foster carer and the support available to you from your Local Authority’s Fostering service. Our foster carers play a vital role in helping to shape the lives of children and ensuring they have every opportunity to have happy and successful futures.”
If you would like more information about fostering with your Local Authority, visit: www.teesvalleyfostering.com or visit the Tees Valley Fostering stand at the Cleveland Show this Saturday 26 July at Stewart Park in Marton, Middlesbrough.