A Sunderland family are sharing their story to highlight the need for more foster carers in the city this Foster Care Fortnight (8th to 21st May).
Foster Care Fortnight is a national campaign that aims to raise awareness of the need for more foster carers to come forward across the UK.
Currently 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 young people in the North East.
Billy Hardy, 17, has been in foster care with the same Sunderland family for 11 years. Billy moved to Ryhope to live with foster carers Maurice and Dorothy Davis in 2006.
Billy said: “It was difficult at first. I thought I wouldn’t like coming here, but Maurice and Dorothy always looked after me like I was their own child and I started to get used to my new family and settle in.”
With the help and support of his foster carers Billy, who attends Southmoor Academy sixth form and hopes to go on to study maths at university, has managed to open up to friends about his home life, gaining confidence along the way.
This new-found confidence has led to Billy offering his time to volunteer, giving up his lunch breaks to help with Southmoor Academy’s Anti-Bullying campaign and acting as an advocate on behalf of other young people. In March this year Billy was presented with a Sunderland Young Achiever Award for his ongoing efforts in volunteering.
Billy added: “I’ve heard people say that young people who need foster care must be bad, but that’s not the case and everyone should be given a chance. We all need care for different reasons and good foster care can change someone’s life.
“Three or four years ago I couldn’t talk about my situation at home, even to my friends, but thanks to the support I’ve had I’m now confident enough to talk about it.”
Billy’s foster dad Maurice, 70, and his wife Dorothy, 68, who have two adult children of their own, have been fostering for 32 years and decided to foster after seeing an advertisement in the paper. Since then they have looked after more than 60 children, with Billy being in their care the longest.
Maurice said: “I would encourage anyone thinking it might be for them to give fostering a try. It’s important that fostering fits in with your family life, especially if you have children of your own, but families can start by offering respite or weekend care to test the water and see how they get on.
“Welcoming young people into your family is hugely rewarding, especially the feeling that you’ve had a positive impact on their life. That’s what has kept us fostering for so long.”
Together for Children, which works on behalf of Sunderland City Council to deliver children’s services in the city, is currently 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.
Dawn Bell, foster care assistant team manager 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 and we think this is an important message to share during Foster Care Fortnight.
“I’ve worked in the fostering team in Sunderland for 14 years and 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.”
For more information call Together for Children’s fostering team on 0191 520 5553 or visit our foster care page