Leeds City Council has joined forces with local authorities across Yorkshire to tackle a critical shortage of foster carers in the region.
It will team up with 10 other councils, including Sheffield, York and Bradford, to create the largest ever regional fostering campaign under the banner ‘You Can Foster’.
The campaign will help to showcase the huge diversity of potential fosterers and how they can make a real difference to the lives of some of the county’s most vulnerable children.
In Yorkshire more than 600 new foster families are needed, according to The Fostering Network, the charity behind Foster Care Fortnight, which launched nationwide yesterday.
And while there are children of all ages and backgrounds that urgently need secure and loving homes, local authorities particularly need to recruit families who are willing to take on teenagers and siblings.
Leeds City Council’s chief executive Tom Riordan, who spent time in care when he was a young child, is backing the campaign. Mr Riordan’s mother had been diagnosed as bipolar as a teenager and while she enjoyed periods of good health she sometimes struggled with the demands of raising two young children. The pressure was compounded by his father’s own battle with alcoholism and depression and when he was just two weeks old he and his older brother were placed with foster carers. From that age to being a toddler he went back into care another three times.
He said: “The new campaign is a group of us getting together to try and get a bigger message out about the importance of fostering and how much we value foster care and what a difference it can make.
“We are still, as everyone is, coping with an increased demand as more people are affected by issues like mental health problems. We need about another 70 foster carers a year in Leeds, particularly to help with teenagers and people who need emergency care.
“My message to anyone thinking becoming a foster carer you can change people’s lives and make a real difference. That’s my story. We had a very loving family, and a really good upbringing but at times we needed support and that’s what we got. There are thousands of families in Yorkshire who are in a similar situation and we need to help them to help themselves. This is hopefully a good way to do that.”