People in West Yorkshire will have the opportunity to find out about the positive impact of foster caring at two information events to be held in Leeds and Ainley Top during Foster Care Fortnight (12-25 May).
The informal drop-in events, which are being hosted by joint council-led initiative, Foster4Yorkshire, are open to anyone in West Yorkshire who is interested in foster caring. People will be able to gain a valuable insight into the vital role by meeting existing local foster families and recruitment teams from West Yorkshire's five local authorities.
With a shortage of at least 8,600 foster families nationally more people are urgently needed to meet the ever-increasing demand. Foster4Yorkshire is hoping that these events will inspire more people to foster with their local authority and help make a difference to some of society's most vulnerable children.
Paul Johnson from Foster4Yorkshire said, "The number of children coming into foster care in West Yorkshire has risen in recent years to around 2,100. This trend, which is mirrored nationally, is set to continue and we now urgently need 235 new foster families during 2014-15 to help meet the needs of children and young people in our care.
"Foster carers do a remarkable job, helping to protect, support and care for some of our most disadvantaged children and young people. Recruiting a diverse range of people with the right skills and qualities remains one of our biggest challenges; without enough local foster families, children face living far away from everything they know - their family, friends and school - and in some cases, being separated from their siblings. Fostering for a local authority helps ensure that these children are fostered in their home town or city, cementing links with their local community and providing stability at a time of immense change.
David and Lucie Hennessy are just one example of how a stable and loving home can make all the difference to a child. In the six years since they took up foster caring, the Wakefield couple, aged 42 and 45 respectively, have helped improve the lives of 14 children at a time when they've needed it most.
David said, "Our interest in fostering stemmed from our many years of working with young people - I worked in the fitness industry and Lucie in childcare - and we always had a desire to help those who hadn't had the best start in life. It was after spending time with a friend who was a foster carer that we knew it was something we definitely wanted to do and since being approved in 2008 we've never looked back.
"Every child we've looked after has come to us with their own set of issues and we have had to adapt to meet their individual needs. We've kept in touch with all our foster children and they are proof that it is possible to make a big difference in a relatively short space of time.
"An example of this is a child we looked after who came to us from a household where, sadly, violence was a part of everyday life. Five years on and this child, who went on to be adopted into a loving family, is now a happy, contented individual and has gone on to exceed expectations and even win at sporting competitions. To witness those happy outcomes is the most satisfying thing about being a foster carer.
"Over the years our role has evolved naturally; initially we were approved as short-term foster carers but we are now looking after a child with complex medical needs who will stay with us into adulthood. As a foster carer, you need to be organised and prepared to structure your life around the children. But I can honestly say the impact on our own family has only been positive. Our two daughters have been brilliant from the outset, always helping out and getting involved, and I believe it has made them more grounded as individuals.
"My advice to anyone who is interested in foster caring is to talk to other people who have had first-hand experience of it and the information events provide an ideal opportunity to do just that."
Paul Johnson added: "It goes without saying that all children deserve the best possible start in life but it's a sad reality that many coming into care have experienced things that no child should ever have to. However we've seen time and again the transformation in them once placed within a stable, loving environment and we are now calling on people during Foster Care Fortnight to come along to one of our information events to find out more.
"Foster carers come from all walks of life. Don't discount yourself because of your age or living arrangements. It's your experience and outlook on life that's most important, and we are looking for people who can help make a real, positive difference to a child. Although challenging and exhausting at times, most of our foster carers say that it is the most fun, satisfying and worthwhile job they've ever done.
"The need for more foster carers has never been more critical and we desperately need more long and short-term foster carers for babies, toddlers, young children, teenagers and sibling groups of various ages and abilities."
The information events take place:
Sunday 18th May - 12pm to 4pm -Village Urban Resort Leeds, Capitol Blvd, Tingley, Leeds, LS27 0TS
Wednesday 21st May – 4pm to 8pm – Cedar Court Hotel Huddersfield, Ainley Top, HD3 3RH
For further information call 0800 197 0320 or visit www.room-in-wakefield.co.uk
*** MEDIA OPPORTUNITY –You are invited to send a reporter/photographer/camera crew to Village Urban Resort Leeds, Capitol Blvd, Tingley, LS27 0TS on Sunday 18th May between 12pm and 2pm. David Hennessy will be available for media interviews both prior to and at the event. Paul Johnson will also be available for media interviews before the 18th May. For further information or to arrange an interview before 18th May please contact Press Office on Tel; 305294. On 17th and18th May contact Karen Jones on Tel: 07528 252284.
Notes to editors
1. Foster Care Fortnight 2014 runs between12-25 May and is an annual, national campaign, aimed at raising awareness about fostering.
2. Established in 2013, Foster4Yorkshire is made up of representatives from each of West Yorkshire's five local authority fostering teams, in Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield. In the year since it was formed, Foster4Yorkshire has been able to share ideas and resources, as well as reach out to more families to break down some of the barriers to fostering. For further information about Foster4Yorkshire visit: www.foster4yorkshire.org
3. Local authorities in West Yorkshire are aiming to recruit 235 new foster families during 2014-15. Figures for each local authority are broken down as follows:
Kirklees : 35
4. Carers who foster with their local council look after children on a regular basis and continually develop and utilise their skills and expertise with a range of training and support. They are supported by dedicated teams of experts and can join a network of carers across their local area all working to improve the lives of vulnerable children and young people.
5. Foster carers come from all ages and backgrounds:
• Single – male or female, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, married or living as a couple
• Divorced or widowed
• With or without children
• Any religious faith or none at all
• Any cultural background
• Homeowners or renting
• Employed, retired or on benefits
• With or without professional childcare experience
• With or without qualifications
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF FOSTER4YORKSHIRE. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT press office TEL: 305294