Two generations of foster carers from one Sunderland family are sharing their story to highlight the need for more foster carers in the city.
The Williams family are speaking out in support of Together for Children’s city-wide foster carer recruitment drive, which includes advertising on buses and at Metro stations during the busy run up to Christmas.
John Williams, 62, and his wife Ruth, also 62, from Easington Lane, have been foster carers for 19 years, looking after eight children over the years. The family’s dedication to foster care has been passed down to their son Barry, 38, and his wife Helen, 35, who have been foster carers themselves for six years.
The couple decided to follow in John and Ruth’s footsteps after growing attached to some of the youngsters who had been in the family’s care.
Helen said: “We got to know one little boy who was fostered by Barry’s parents really well and became very attached to him. Barry’s parents were fostering him on a short-term basis to offer respite care and we decided to enquire about looking after him on a longer term basis. He’s now been with us six years.
“We also have another little boy who we care for and a biological daughter who is three. They can bicker like any sibling group but they get on well and it makes for a rewarding family life.”
Ruth added: “We had always wanted to be foster carers and decided that after our own children became independent we would take the plunge. We have looked after many children over the years and are delighted that Barry and Helen have also now chosen to foster. It is extremely rewarding seeing how the children progress during their time with us and watching them grow and flourish. Even the little changes feel very rewarding.”
Currently there are more than 400 children are in foster care in Sunderland with Together for Children, looked after by around 270 foster carers, but more families are needed to provide temporary homes for children and young people in the city.
Together for Children is looking to recruit a number of new foster carers, particularly for older children and sibling groups. Foster carers are offered financial support to cover the cost of caring for the child, as well as ongoing training and support from qualified social workers.
Barry Williams added: “The difference you can make to a child’s life is extremely rewarding and I’d encourage anyone who may have considered being a foster carer to find out more.
“Although foster care can be quite daunting at first, there is a large support network available to new foster carers through Together for Children, with advice on hand from staff, social workers and other foster carers who may have experienced a similar situation.”
Kathryn McCabe, lead manager for Fostering and Adoption at Together for Children, said: “Foster care doesn’t just transform the lives of children and young people - it also enhances the lives of foster carers and their families.
“Seeing the positive changes in children from when they first arrive is hugely rewarding, but what is also rewarding is seeing just how much happiness these young people can bring to the families that they join.
“I’d encourage anyone thinking about foster care to come along to one of Together for Children’s fostering events, where they can meet foster carers, talk one to one and find out more.”
Councillor Louise Farthing, Portfolio Holder for Children's Services, said: “It is really very important that we encourage more families to come forward and take on the role of foster carers in our city as we have many children and young people in need of a loving home.
“As well as financial support, foster carers are offered ongoing training and support throughout their time with us, giving them a helping hand along the way and if they face any challenges. I’d encourage anyone who is keen to find out more to come along to one of Together for Children’s open evenings or to give the team a call.”
The next Together for Children foster care event takes place on January 16 at Bede Tower, Burdon Rd, Sunderland SR2 7DZ, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. The event is open to anyone wanting to find out more and no booking is required.
For more information click here or call Together for Children’s fostering team on 0191 520 5553