Could you help to care for foster children?
- Credit: DARREN HARMAN-PAGE
A Clacton family who have cared for more than a dozen children in the last 25 years have called for more older people to consider fostering.
Their plea comes as part of Essex County Council's Foster Care Fortnight campaign, which aims to find 100 new foster carers in the county to combat increasing demand.
The service says it has seen the number of children requiring a home grow steadily in recent years, with 750 children currently living in foster care.
Darren and Karen Harman-Page, both aged in their 50s, have since gone into full-time fostering after 25 years of caring for children and are calling on more people in their later life to get involved.
Mr Harman-Page said: "It's incredibly rewarding to know you're making a huge difference to children's lives.
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"Even though they're not your children, you do grow to love them as your children and give them everything they need in a safe, non-judgemental home.
"You make them part of your family and look forward to the successful reunifications. It's very emotional to say goodbye sometimes, but those are the rewarding transformations you strive towards."
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Since becoming a foster father, Mr Harman-Page now serves as vice-president of national charity Fostering Network. His wife previously worked as a nurse caring for children with complex learning disabilities.
Both say they hope their experience can help them care for more vulnerable youngsters, an issue the council say is pressing with the rate of children leaving care slowing down.
Mr Harman-Page added: "You build them up gradually and you build trust gradually. Some might have witnessed domestic violence or abuse.
"Others may think there wasn't a problem before. You have to be sensitive to their changing needs."
Essex County Council fostering team manager Corrie Castleman added: "Older foster parents have a wealth of experience and time to offer. You are never too old to be a foster carer, we have people foster into their seventies and you could, too.
"Vulnerable children desperately need you."
Those interested in fostering should call Essex County Council Adoption Agency on 0800 801530 or on their website.