More people are being urged to consider becoming foster carers to help make a difference in the lives of children across County Durham.
Durham County Council has launched an appeal to recruit more carers for children with additional needs and disabilities.
This could involve caring for a child with a hidden need such as a learning disability, or a physical disability that might limit a child’s mobility or sensory development.
Some children needing foster carers across the county also have greater medical needs than others, including epilepsy or diabetes.
The council currently has over 250 families caring for children and young people, with carers able to continue supporting young people into adulthood.
Ann has been a foster carer with the authority for more than 20 years. She has fostered several children, including one young person with complex disabilities for most of that time.
Ann said: “Every day is challenging but rewarding. For everything I give, I get back double and I am passionate about what I do. It was my life’s ambition to give a child a home and it is true that the more you put into being a carer, the more rewarding it is.
“I have a great local network of support here and my council fostering social workers have always been fantastic.
“My advice to anyone thinking about fostering a child is to go for it but to do so with an open mind as every day is different. Also, don’t be scared to ask for help or support as it is always there for you.”
Carers are given access to a network of professionals as part of their support package, including their own fostering social worker, specialist nurses and therapeutic social workers. The council also provides access to an educational team that can provide advice and guidance when needed.
They are paid competitive fostering allowances and fees, with Christmas and summer top-ups and extra tax relief, which do not affect certain benefits.
Additional financial support, specialist equipment and other help specific to the individual child may also be available, depending on the needs of the child.
Cllr Ted Henderson, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “We need more foster carers to care for children of all ages across the county, including a number of children with physical and other disabilities. Although taking care of a child with disabilities might seem quite daunting, it will also be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.
“Furthermore, we can reassure people that they will feel supported throughout the whole process. Our fostering team is always on hand to provide advice and help to carers whenever they need it.
“In providing a safe and stable home to a child with a disability, you will be giving them the opportunity to achieve their full potential and you will see them flourish. Whether you are single, married or in a relationship, I would urge anyone wanting to know more about fostering to take that first step on their journey and contact our team.”
For more information about becoming a foster carer, residents can visit www.durham.gov.uk/fostering or call 03000 269 400.