Northumberland residents speak about their fostering experiences as more carers are sought

Foster carers and their families in Northumberland are among those who are calling for more people to come forward to ensure that children in need of a foster home can be cared for in the county.

By Andrew Coulson
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 3:58 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2022, 4:13 pm

In areas where there are a lack of carers, children are placed with foster families away from their local communities and sibling groups are separated.

Northumberland County Council Foster Care has joined The Fostering Network charity in highlighting this issue during the current Foster Care Fortnight, which runs until May 22.

Families have also been speaking about their experiences including as follows, in location alphabetical order.

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Debbie from Alnwick and George from Morpeth.

Alnwick resident

Debbie from Alnwick has been a foster carer for more than 13 years. She initially looked after one child on a long-term basis until they reached adulthood and after that looked after young children and babies.

She is currently providing long term foster care for a 10-year-old boy.

She said: “I decided to start fostering when my own family had grown up and we felt that we had room and love with which we could use to care for other children who need some support and help.

Jonny and Dean from Blyth Valley and Laura from Berwick with her six-year-old daughter Georgie.

“I'm often asked why I foster, and how I have kept fostering for so long. I have to say that it is an emotional rollercoaster, but there are definitely more highs than lows.

“To see a child or young person develop and move on with their own life, and start their own families eventually, is so rewarding.

“Just to know that you have made a huge difference in that young person's life is the best feeling ever.”

Berwick resident

Laura provides short-term foster care for babies and describes it as “the best job in the world”.

The 34-year-old said: “People often ask me – how do you give them back? It is tough to say goodbye, but when you see that moment that they meet their forever family and you see that joy and happiness, it is so exciting.

“I also have an amazing social worker who supports me.

“I see myself as a stepping stone. We love them, we care for them, they become and are part of my family – all my relatives love them too.

“I have kept in contact with the families and I get pictures on birthdays and see them a couple of times a year. I feel they are always a part of our family, wherever they are.”

Blyth Valley residents

Partners Jonny and Dean from Blyth Valley decided to apply to become long-term foster carers after feeling they had “so much more to give”.

Jonny, 34, a community nurse, said: “We currently have a little seven-year-old boy living with us who jokes every day that he’s going to stay with us until he’s an old man.

“Fostering brings a lot of special moments and those moments just blow you away.

“One that stands out was when I was teaching him how to brush his teeth properly and one night he turned round and said ‘you’re like my dad,’ and that was so lovely.

“It melts your heart and it’s those moments that make fostering worth it. That’s why we care, so could you, come and foster with Northumberland.”

Dean, 34, an assistant grounds manager, said: “We just felt we had so much more to give and we knew how many children were out there needing a loving home, so we decided to find out more.

“He’s changed our lives, we’re out and about more – going places and doing new things.

“We both work full time, so we applied to care for a child who was of school age.

“But it’s not about someone coming into your home and fitting in with your life – we’ve all lived different lives, so we have to blend into a new one and build a family together.”

Morpeth residents

Backing the campaign is 12-year-old George.

He said: “It’s like having a friend who’s always there. I quite like it when we teach each other different things – like he was teaching me how to do a pull-up in the park, which was quite fun – and just playing games with each other.

“If you are worried that there may be arguments with you or your parents, then don’t worry about it because it means they are comfortable about bringing their opinions and that they feel part of the family.”

His mother Michelle added: “I was told that I would never be able to have children, so George was our miracle baby. We always hoped it would happen again and we could have more children, but unfortunately it didn’t.

“I knew that George really wanted a brother, or a sister, and he said he felt quite lonely sometimes as an only child. We talked about fostering as a family as we felt it was also an opportunity to give something back to others.

“We are so pleased that we did. There have been challenges, but we’ve worked through it together and I’m very proud of George for supporting this campaign and helping to share what foster caring means to him.”

Graham Reiter, service director for children's social care at Northumberland County Council, said: “We want to make sure that our children can stay with foster families local to the communities they are familiar with.

“If you think you have the space in your home and your heart, and the skills needed to help children thrive, please get in touch. You can call us or join one of our face-to-face or online ‘Is fostering for me?’ sessions.

To find out more, call Caroline Matthews on 01670 626262 or email [email protected]