Next week sees the start of Foster Care Fortnight, and events are being held in the East Riding to promote the role.
Foster carers are a remarkable group of people who devote weeks, months or even years of their lives to support and nurture some of the most vulnerable young people, giving them stability, love and the guidance they need.
Among them are Gary and Annette Duke, who are both in their 60s, but have spent almost 15 years fostering children since moving to the Bridlington area from the West Riding.
With their own children grown up, they moved to the coast and saw the opportunity to help children whose backgrounds had given them a far from ideal start to life.
Gary said: “My wife and I started fostering back in 2004. We felt we had the space and the time, so we looked into it.
“I had taken early retirement and we thought we had something to offer.
“We’ve had quite a varied experience, but there are more highs than lows.
“It can be difficult, by the nature of children and young people being in care, they have been through some tough times.
“We have provided long-term care for quite a large sibling group. As they gre up and moved on, we started to do other types of fostering.
“We are both in our mid 60s and knew we wouldn’t be able to do that sort of long-term care again.
“So, we have done short-term care for a few months and even taken babies and toddlers and helped them move on to adoption.
“It’s emotional, especially when you have looked after a baby since birth and a year or 18 months later they are moving on.
“You become very attached but it is very rewarding to see them placed somewhere secure and permanent.
“You have to be prepared for the emotion, and if you don’t find something like that hard, you are probably not the right person for the job.”
The couple are able to keep in touch with children who they have fostered, once they have moved on, with newsletters and photographs sent, and they still meet up with some of the youngsters.
And they believe fostering gives them plenty in return.
“You have to be reasonably fit and active too, but fostering helps to keep you young,” said Gary.
“We’ve met a whole new range of people who we would never have met, that includes other foster carers, who become friends after we met them at lots of training and support groups.
“We have also met a whole new generation of parents.”
Foster Care Fortnight runs from Monday until May 21 and has the theme ‘foster care transforms lives’.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council is urging people who are thinking about becoming foster carers to do it now.
In the East Riding there are currently 227 children in foster care, and the council is looking to recruit around 20 to 25 new carers each year. The council is particularly keen to recruit more carers in the Bridlington area.
The team is looking for foster carers of all ages and is particularly keen to find suitable carers for children aged five and above, and long-term placements.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council provides training, support and generous allowances.
Dave Glenville, East Riding fostering team manager, said: “Fostering can be fun, tough, rewarding and challenging – sometimes all at the same time.
“We, and importantly the children and young people we are caring for, need foster carers.
“We need people with enthusiasm, resilience and a very strong desire to help young people. Fostering changes lives and makes a very real difference.”
Prospective foster carers should ideally be over 25. They can be single, married or co-habiting. People with or without families, heterosexual, lesbian or gay, can be foster carers.
On Thursday 18 May there will be an information event at Tickton Grange Hotel, near Beverley, at 6pm. People can go along and meet members of the team, foster carers and looked-after children. There is no need to book, children are welcome and refreshments will be provided.
Anyone interested in finding out more about becoming a foster carer can also contact the fostering team on 01482 396469 or email email@example.com