A support hub for prospective foster carers in an effort to gain new recruits has been launched in the North East as approved carers have fallen by 33% in just a year.

Foster with North East, led by Sunderland City Council’s Together for Children service has been launched as the region attempts to gain new carers.

The collaborative partnership works with 12 authorities across the region and can support potential new carers from the point of enquiry to the end of the application process which usually takes around 6 months.

Commenting on the launch, Jill Colbert OBE, Chair of the Foster with North East Project Implementation Board said: “There has been a decline in the number of foster carers across the North East and we as a region recognised that something needs to be done to encourage more people into foster care.  

“Whilst we know 64% of people in Darlington are inspired to change a child's life through fostering, many don't realise they can and, as a result, don’t make the initial enquiry. We want to bridge this knowledge gap and dispel myths around who is eligible to foster, to ensure we recruit a diverse range of carers across the region.” 

She added: “Foster with North East has been launched to address misconceptions around fostering and provide crucial support to prospective carers when they need it most.

“With this new drive the close-knit North East region is coming together to ensure every child gets the love and care they deserve. For the first time, anyone considering fostering in Darlington will benefit from a united support hub for prospective foster carers, with help available every step of the way."  

The North East is also the first region in the UK to be fully signed up to the Fostering Network’s Mockingbird programme.

The initiative nurtures relationships between cared-for children, young people and foster families by bringing together six to ten fostering families who act as an extended family for activities such as Sunday lunches, sleepovers and days out.

As the support hub launches, one carer based in the North East has described her experience of fostering as “life-changing”.

Former teaching assistant Lisa, 49, from Stockton-on-Tees has taken on foster children after her two children grew up.

The Northern Echo: Lisa Rusby.Lisa Rusby. (Image: FOSTER WITH NORTH EAST)

She said: “Fostering has given me the chance to have a truly life-changing, positive impact on young people in my area during times of need. 

“I have two biological daughters of my own, and now that they have grown up, I have had the time and space to foster two half-brothers both of whom have additional needs. It's the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”  

Niki, 53, from Ushaw Moor in Durham, went into fostering after battling breast cancer and decided she “wanted to do something worthwhile”.

The Northern Echo: Niki Watkis.Niki Watkis. (Image: FOSTER WITH NORTH EAST)


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The former computer programmer had fostered children with disabilities, learning difficulties and other needs as she believes that every child “deserves a chance”.

She said: “I’ve been fostering for 14 years, almost always children under two years old and often with additional needs.

“I'm so pleased I made the decision to foster – it has had a truly positive impact on my life as well as the children I look after. Every child deserves a chance, and sharing your home can make a huge difference.”