A Sunderland family are sharing their story to highlight the need for more foster carers in the city this Foster Care Fortnight (14th to 28th May).
Foster Care Fortnight is a national campaign that aims to raise awareness of the need for more foster carers to come forward across the UK.
Currently more than 400 children are in foster care in Sunderland with Together for Children, looked after by around 270 foster carers, but more families are needed to provide temporary homes for young people in the city.
Elaine Ellis-Smith, 61, has been a foster carer in Sunderland for six years with her husband Dave. She currently fosters two siblings, a 12-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy. She also fosters a three month-old baby girl.
Elaine said: “I wanted to foster when my youngest daughter was 16 but she didn’t warm to the idea at first. When she got older and had her own child she was fine with it, so I decided to go ahead. I have three grown up children of my own and wonderful grandchildren - when I began fostering everyone welcomed the children into the family like they were our own.”
Elaine worried that when she first applied to be a foster carer the process would be long and stressful, but she’s found this hasn’t been the case.
Elaine said: “The process with Together for Children was really straightforward. I applied in the September and was put before the panel in the February. The support I’ve had from Together for Children has been amazing.
“I get to see my foster worker regularly and I’ve got a great relationship with her. My mum passed away not long ago, and my foster worker offered to help out with the children, which I was really grateful for at such a sad time.”
Elaine recognises the challenges of fostering but says that the positives outweigh any negatives. She added: “I find being a foster carer extremely rewarding. When my current foster children arrived, I remember how lost looking and frightened they were – I’ve now seen them grow into confident, happy children and there’s no better feeling knowing you’ve contributed towards that.
“You do have to be a selfless person to be a foster carer as the children have to be the priority in your life - we can’t just go on holiday on our own at the drop of a hat. We don’t mind though because we love taking the children on holiday – we love seeing them enjoy themselves and being a part of the family.”
Together for Children, which works on behalf of Sunderland City Council to deliver children’s services, is currently looking to recruit a number of new foster carers, particularly for older children and sibling groups. Foster carers are offered financial support to cover the cost of caring for the child.
Daniel Kenny, Assistant Fostering Team Manager at Together for Children, said: “Looking after a child takes real energy and a warm heart. Sunderland foster carers go above and beyond to give children and young people a safe and secure home, making a big difference to their lives.
“We need to recruit more foster carers who can help bring a sense of family and belonging to vulnerable children and young people, so please contact our fostering team today or come to one of our monthly information evenings.”
The next Together for Children foster care event takes place on Tuesday May 22 at Bede Tower, Burdon Rd, Sunderland SR2 7DZ, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. The event is open to anyone wanting to find out more and no booking is required.
For more information visit www.togetherforchildren.org.uk/families/fostering or call Together for Children’s fostering team on 0191 520 5553.