Green-fingered school pupils, a Durham County Council foster carer and two young people who have benefitted from being in care dug in to help with the planting of a flower bed which promotes the urgent need for more foster carers in County Durham.
Every summer, the council plants a decorative carpet bedding display in Gilesgate with a different theme, with the display remaining in place for visitors to enjoy over the summer until late September.
Children from Durham Gilesgate Primary School in Durham City joined with Durham County Council Fostering Service as well as the council’s civic pride and clean and green teams to plant the bed, which aims to encourage families across County Durham to contact the council if they are interested in making a difference to a child in need by offering a loving home. It also promotes the Durham in Bloom campaign.
There are currently over 950 children in care of some kind in County Durham. Of the 950, there are nearly 40 children who urgently need a permanent foster family to provide them with love, security and stability until they are 18-years-old and beyond. Foster carers are offered a range of support to help children and young people grow in their care and become successful in the future.
Dawn Dickinson is a foster carer who has fostered 13 children in the three years she has been with Durham County Council. She said: “Events like these are great. I’m so proud to foster for Durham, the support we receive from our fostering social worker and the Fostering team is fantastic. There is a variety of support groups and training you can attend to support you along your fostering journey.
“I was fostered and then adopted myself which motivated me to get into fostering. Making a difference in a child’s life and watching them thrive makes fostering so rewarding.”
Lesley and Caitlyn live together with Durham County Council foster carers. Both aspire to do social work as a result of their positive experiences in care, with Lesley offered a place to do a social work degree at Leeds Beckett University in September.
Lesley, 19, said: “I’ve had a good experience being fostered. I’ve had good support around me and I want to raise awareness as we need more good foster carers in County Durham.”
Caitlyn said: “Being in foster care has given me opportunities which other children don’t get. I have arranged and presented lots of training for teachers, carers, social workers and even the police. At 16 I even went onto the radio to promote Care Day. Being fostered has also helped me to think about my future. I also want to be a social worker and to work with children like myself.”
Mark Turner, the headteacher of Durham Gilesgate Primary School, said: “We support the flower bed planting every year. We’ve been doing it for eight years now and it’s a wonderful opportunity for the children to be involved in their community and to participate in Durham in Bloom.
“It’s a shame we could not do it last year because of the pandemic but it’s brilliant for the children to be back supporting Durham’s bid for Britain in Bloom. It’s one little step back to normality.”
The council also need permanent foster carers for seven children with disabilities, and a number of foster carers who can consider offering respite on a weekend to children with disabilities. This greatly supports their parents and caregivers, enabling children to remain at home most of the time.
Helen Milliken, Durham County Council’s fostering manager, said: “Fostering is very rewarding and something which is open to a wide range of people. Relationship status, age and sexuality don’t matter and we are here to provide training and support once a child is with a single person or couple.
“My team and I are keen to answer any questions from those interested so please get in touch to find out more.”
Cllr Mark Wilkes, the council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and climate change, said: “It is wonderful how well the service has done with the planting this year. We really want people to get involved in fostering and I’m sure this will help raise awareness of the need for more foster carers in our county.”
For more information about fostering with Durham County Council phone 03000 269 400, email [email protected] or go to www.durham.gov.uk/fostering