Foster carers in County Durham have written to a national retailer to express their gratitude for raising awareness of what they do.
Six carers, who have taken in young people with the support of Durham County Council, have penned a joint letter to high street giant John Lewis, in response to the release of its 2022 Christmas TV advert.
The advert, which has become an eagerly-awaited annual tradition in recent years, highlights the work of foster carers. It follows the story of a man trying to teach himself to skateboard with the support of his partner. At the end of the advert, a nervous young girl arrives at the couple’s home, holding a skateboard.
The caption informs viewers that there are more than 108,000 children in the UK in the care system. In County Durham alone, there are currently over 1,000 children in care and the county council is in desperate need of more carers to join its fostering family, especially those that can offer a home to teenagers or siblings.
The six carers decided to write to John Lewis as the story in the advert was so similar to their own. Each member of the group has learnt or mastered a new skill since taking children and young people into their care.
Deborah, for example, wanted to understand her child’s diabetes better so had a temporary medical procedure to mimic the side effects. Susan and Steve also stepped out of their comfort zone to embrace social media and have since produced a TikTok video. Meanwhile, Cheryl has become an expert cook and baker, Gary is now an adventure park and climbing frame master and Lesley a climbing instructor.
The carers’ letter to John Lewis thanked them for drawing attention to their role.
They wrote: “Thank you for choosing to highlight children who are in care through your Christmas advertising campaign this year. As a group of foster carers, we wanted to let you know how much it means to us and to the children we care for.
“The advert is lovely, truly heart-warming and has been a real talking point amongst our community of carers and our children.
“It is particularly nice for the children we care for to see their cause championed in such a high-profile way by such a big organisation…
“As a group of foster carers, we have all experienced exactly what you portray in your campaign this year. The nerves, anxiety and excitement that comes with preparing to welcome a child into your home.The preparation that you put in to making sure you are ready: whether that’s getting a bedroom decorated, getting food in you’ve been told they like, or learning a new skill that they have an interest in so that you instantly have a talking point and something to share…
“Like you, we are proud to champion fostering within our community and working with our fostering team we are collectively doing all we can to bring attention to the issue…
“Thank you once again for your kind attention to this matter which is so important to us in the North East.”
Cllr Ted Henderson, the council’s Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said:
“We are always grateful to those who offer to open their home to children and young people, and we are humbled that six of our carers feel so passionate about what they do that they have taken the step of writing this letter to John Lewis.
“It is great that the company has shone a nationwide spotlight on children in care and we would encourage anyone in the North East who is touched by the story in the advert to contact our fostering team if they might be interested in offering a young person a home.
“We hope that other large organisations will be inspired by John Lewis’ lead and will do their bit to bring attention to this important issue.”
Anyone who is interested in finding out more about fostering with Durham County Council can visit www.durham.gov.uk/fostering