FOSTERING is in crisis as the number of foster families needed around the country climbs into the thousands. More than 1,500 foster carers are needed in the North West, making it the most desperate region in the UK for carers. With nearly one per cent of all Bolton’s children in care, foster carers themselves are appealing for more people to come forward.

OVER 8,000 more foster carers are needed across the UK, according to Next Stage Fostering. The number shows no signs of slowing down as the number of children in care nationally is on the rise.

In Bolton, almost one per cent of all children are in care.

Some 642 children in care, while there are only 240 households in the town fostering.

This is the highest the figure has been in five years, along with number of children leaving care being at a three-year low.

In the wake of dwindling numbers of people taking children out of care, the Foster Care Fortnight campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the urgent need.

Fostering Network's Foster Care Fortnight campaign kicked off early last week and will go on until May 26, with support from local leaders including Bolton West MP Chris Green.

The campaign is celebrating carers for the vital role they play in the lives of the most vulnerable children in a bid to highlight the rewards of the job.

The campaign saw six Bolton families, among a group of carers with 237 years of fostering children between them, recognised at a long service awards ceremony in Manchester on Friday.

Now, the families are sharing their stories of foster caring, with the hope that it will inspire others to welcome a child into their home.

One family in Little Lever has been fostering for six years, rescuing two young brothers from a life of neglect and domestic violence.

The foster mother was inspired by her work in schools. She said: “I’m a teaching assistant in a secondary school and there were neglected children that you thought, if I could take you home and look after you. It’s not their fault.

“It’s something we always wanted to do and the timing was never right.

The family did their research and decided to go with the second agency they found.

The foster mum said: “We started the process and it was quite quick.”

The couple had three children of their own, the youngest being 15, when they welcomed two boys into their home. The brothers were ages seven and eight-years-old.

The proud foster mum said: “This was our second placement, now we’ve had them for five years!”

The boys had a difficult start in life, says their foster mother, but she believed she could turn things around for them.

She said: “They came from neglect, no boundaries and domestic violence. It’s a trauma. They went to school and never went home, and then they came to us.

“When we got [the eldest boy], he was being taken to look around a pupil referral unit. He was eight and he hadn’t made any progress in school since he was six. He used to go around Manchester on the trams after school.

“I thought, if I can get you to 18 without a criminal record, I’ll consider myself having done a good job.”

As the years went on, the boys settled into their Little Lever home and their new family has proved the perfect match.

She says: “Now [the eldest] is doing a youth leadership award, he’s been in cricket tournaments, he’s starting his GCSEs all at a normal secondary school. He’s doing really well and he’s got a really good chance of exceeding all of his targets in Year 11.

“They’re just normal boys, they love sports, they love cricket and football. I’m so proud of them, I don’t think they realise how well their doing.”

The Little Lever family approach to fostering children with a difficult background was getting the brothers into a normal routine.

The foster mother said: “We established routines for bedtime and family meals around the table, predictable rituals that helped the children feel safe. Gradually the nurture and structure had a positive effect.”

A specific need for the Little Lever family has been to recognise the brothers’ dual heritage. The family received training from social workers on how to best incorporate the children’s history into their own.

The foster mum said: “They are of dual heritage, they are part Caribbean and Jamaican. We make them aware of their cultural heritage and we have to be aware of the cultural differences.”

But the family says that there is no set of rules to follow, as each child has unique needs. The mum added: “There’s no hard and fast rules for how you can do it.

“As long as you’ve got a bedroom spare and are willing — the rest you play it by ear. You just want to help them, you want to fix them.

The foster mum says that anyone can do the job if they have enough love to go around. She said: “People always say that we’re doing such a good job with the boys but it’s just the basics, we feed them, we wash them, we love them — it’s just normal stuff.

“If you’ve got a lot of love to give then go for it.”