People in East Durham are being encouraged to consider becoming foster parents.
Durham County Council is making the appeal as one new child every day comes into care in need of a loving home.
The appeal comes as Foster Care Fortnight continues, a national initiative to raise awareness about fostering and the rewards it can offer those willing to open their homes and their hearts to children who are in desperate need.
One of Durham County Council’s former foster children, Brandon, is sharing his story to show what a difference fostering can make to the life of a young person.
Brandon was just eight when he and his six brothers were taken into care, he said: “When we lived at home there wasn’t much money free to spend on us kids, but I remember my mam used to go out and buy big oranges for us. She’d cut them up into sections and we would devour them; it was a real treat having oranges then…I still love them now.”
Brandon and his brothers couldn’t be placed together and he went on his own to a short-term placement, he explained: “They were an older couple, more like grandparents to me, they were really kind and caring but I was scared, I was on my own and I was lonely, I used to just sit and cry. It took me about two years to realise this was what life was for me now, that I wasn’t going back home and I just had to learn to accept it.”
Brandon was later fostered into a permanent placement, but after around five years the placement broke down and he was taken into a new foster family, with Chris and Leanne Coulson who were already foster carers with Durham County Council.
Brandon said: “Moving in with them was like turning over a new leaf for me, they treated me like a young adult and gave me freedom (so long as I didn’t go mad!) to make my own choices and my own mistakes, I’d never had that before and it just felt like a fresh start, like I could finally be myself instead of trying to be the way someone else wanted me to be.”
Now Brandon has reconnected with his birth mother and some of his brothers but has chosen to stay on with his foster parents as part of the “Staying Put” programme. “Why would I not want to stay here?” he says “This is my home and Chris and Leanne chose to take me on when I was what some people would describe as a ‘difficult teenager’ they gave me a new chance.”
With his future looking bright, Brandon is hoping to train as a mechanic, but also has ideas of what he wants for his own family life in the future: “I want to meet someone and have a family of my own but then I definitely want to foster after that.
“Fostering’s a journey for everyone involved. It isn’t a straight road, there are roundabouts and turnings in the road but I think if you can let a child make mistakes, guide them along the way, help them to develop and give them that chance they deserve, then you can be a foster carer.
“Being fostered changed my life – it made a massive difference to me. I used to bunk off school all the time and when I was home us older kids would have to look after the little ones because my mum was too ill to do it. Once I was fostered I got back on the right track and I want to give someone else that kind of new chance at life when I’m older.”
If you could open your home and heart to a child in need, then Durham County Council’s fostering team wants to hear from you. A drop-in information session is being held at County Hall, Durham on Saturday 20 May from 10am to 2pm, you can get in touch on 03000 269 400 or visit www.durham.gov.uk/fostering for more information.