David Barrass, 58, a keen walker from Seaton in County Durham hiked to Everest base camp at the beginning of May and highlighted the need for more foster carers to come forward across the UK.
13 to 26 May 2019 marks Foster Care Fortnight, a national campaign that aims to raise awareness of foster care.
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 more than 400 children are in foster care with Together for Children, looked after by around 250 foster carers, but more families are needed to provide temporary homes for young people across the authority.
David and his partner Andrea have been foster carers since 2003 and have fostered over 30 children in that time.
David said: “We began fostering when a neighbour who is also a teacher and a friend sought support for two teenagers, we were in a position to be able to help, so we did. We have fostered ever since, some short-term and some longer term and we’re proud to help young people in their time of need.”
David continues: “I like to keep fit and active and have wanted to attempt Everest, the highest mountain in the world, for a long time. And I thought raising a flag for fostering at base camp, which is over 5,000m would be my way of recognising all the amazing young people, who just need someone to give them a chance.
“I undertook the challenge with my son and our training included the three peaks challenge and trips to the Lake District most weekends for 6 months.
“It was 9 days up, allowing for acclimatisation and 3 days down. A cyclone in the region impacted the weather and made it more challenging.”
Together for Children, which works on behalf of Sunderland City Council to deliver children’s services, is currently looking to recruit a number of new foster carers, particularly for older children and sibling groups.
Earlier this year Together for Children announced a new financial support package that provides weekly payments to foster carers. Under the new scheme foster carers can earn up to £34,320 plus allowances per year.
Weekly payments are designed to cover the basic needs of a child or children in foster care and take 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.
In addition, the Fostering Portal provides carers with online training and access to further reading and research and this backed up with social worker support.
Kathryn McCabe, Strategic Service Manager at Together for Children, said: “Our foster carers come from all walks of life; married, cohabiting, single and same sex couples and they all change futures for the better.
“We’re really proud that David has gone as far as the Himalayas to help raise the profile of fostering.
“We need to recruit more foster carers who can help bring a sense of family and belonging to vulnerable children and young people. There’s a strong network of support and during Foster Fortnight some of our current carers and coming together to mark the campaign with an organised walk at Barnes Park.”
There are few restrictions to becoming a foster carer, although carers must undergo a thorough assessment.
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.
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.
The next Together for Children foster care information evening takes place on Wednesday 22 May from 6:30pm to 8pm. The event is open to anyone wanting to find out more and no booking is required. Alternately you may register an expression of interest in fostering online https://togetherforchildren.org.uk/fostercare or call 0191 561 2223.