The pair have revealed how fostering has touched their lives in a bid to encourage more people in to come forward.
The number of children in care has risen for the seventh year in a row to over 92,000. There are 8,600 more foster carers desperately needed across the UK – including 650 in the East of England – to provide stable, loving homes for some of society’s most vulnerable children. Barnardo’s is looking for couples and individuals to take on this challenging but highly-rewarding work.
Debbie Douglas, reality star from ITV2’s The Only Way Is Essex, is a foster carer and Barnardo’s supporter. She said: “Over the 20 years I have been fostering children I have lost count of those who have spent summers with me but all of those who I am still in touch with recall the same memories of our holidays. The reality is children who come into care have often never seen a seaside, built sand castles or swam in the sea.
Daughter Lydia said: “My mother has been a foster carer for as long as I can remember and over the years has fostered hundreds of children. So my childhood was somewhat different to the ‘norm,’ but it was absolutely incredible and I am so grateful. I have met some amazing children and people throughout my life and being a foster sister really made me value the important things in life.”
Foster carers can come from all walks of life. Barnardo’s does not exclude anyone from consideration on the grounds of marital status, sexual orientation, disability or employment status. There is no upper age limit to becoming a foster carer and Barnardo’s is keen to speak to older people with life experience, whether they are parents themselves or not.
Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, said: “Taking a vulnerable child under your wing is a daunting prospect but when we ask foster carers what you need for the job they always come back to the basics: love, patience and a sense of humour.
“Our foster carers transform the future for the children in their care and teach them their own parenting skills for later life. The legacy of every foster carer lives for generations to come. What a very special gift to give.
“We see our foster carers as our partners in supporting vulnerable children. We provide them with as much support, training and advice as possible, for as long as it is needed.”
To find out more about fostering with Barnardo’s visit www.barnardos.org.uk or call 08000 277 280