Oldham couple urge others to take up fostering as record numbers of children in care

Video report by ITV Granada Reports journalist Anna Youssef

A couple who have fostered children for over a decade say too many people "rule themselves out" as foster parents before finding out the full facts.

Across the North West of England, there are record numbers of children in care but the number of people willing to look after them is falling.

Chris and Micheal Smith, from Oldham, are urging people with a "loving, nurturing and caring home" to consider taking up the role.

They say fostering has provided them with a "family, memories and magical moments" over the last 11 years.

Councils across the region say they are short of foster carers. Credit: PA Images

Chris said: "It genuinely doesn't matter if you live on your own, if you are a couple, if you are heterosexual or homosexual.

"It genuinely doesn't matter as long as you an offer a child a loving nurturing caring home - then foster.

"I remember every single child that we’ve cared for. Everyone of them is now part of my extended family."

But despite 6,105 children currently in care in Greater Manchester, the number of fostering applications in the North West if England is down 3% on 2023.

On a national level, the number of applications received from prospective fostering households in 2022 to 2023 was the lowest number in several years and 18% lower than 2018 to 2019.

Councillor Mark Hunter says there are more than 6,000 children in care in Greater Manchester. Credit: ITV News

One way in which Stockport Borough Council is trying to combat the problem is through the Mockingbird initiative.

The innovative programme regularly gets foster families together so they can support each other.

Councillor Mark Hunter said: "We have 6,000 children across Greater Manchester in care at the moment and that is at too high a level and we are determined to do something about that.

"We are very grateful for the 15,000 foster care families that we have already across the city region but we need to encourage more people to come forward to provide that stable caring environment that gives these young children the best chance in life."

Louise Tagg has been a foster parent for 14 years and describes herself as a "fostering aunt".

Louise Tagg is a foster carer. Credit: ITV News

She believes the Mockingbird scheme provides an extended family for young people in care and an extra layer of support for the foster carer.

She added: "No one really understands fostering like another foster carer so when  you might want to have a question, it might not be a big question, the best person to turn to is someone who has walked in your shoes.

"It might be that they just want to unload because we are all working in our home so having the support of our fostering auntie, fostering uncle, fostering grandma and granddad to some of the children- it’s that normal family experience."

You can find more information on fostering on Stockport District Council website.

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