Everyone has the right to a happy childhood, and the joy that comes from a stable home is something many of us take for granted. But many children don't have parents to care for them and so may never experience the love and affection they need to grow.
That is why during Barnardo's fifth annual Fostering and Adoption week we have been campaigning for more would-be adopters and foster carers to come forward. Finding these children loving and secure homes must be an absolute priority.
Today, there are thousands more children waiting to be adopted or fostered than there are people coming forward, to be mums and dads. The figures speak for themselves; more than 4,600 children are currently awaiting families and we need to find some 9,000 new foster families in the next 12 months.
And for those children who have more complex needs - such as older children, disabled children, or a group of siblings - the figures are even more startling. Sadly many children are being left to grow up without a family because of their ethnicity, age, disability or having brothers and sisters.
Consider the stark facts.
A white child is three times more likely to be adopted as a black child. The proportion of children being adopted drops from one in three when a child is aged four or younger to one in 15 when that child turns five, approximately 40% of children waiting for a new permanent family have some form of special need. And finally that 48% of the children on the adoption register are in sibling groups.
Shocked? That's why we launched our Fostering and Adoption week by projecting on to the side of the Museum of Childhood in East London images representing the groups of children hardest to place. Life for these children is a bewildering maelstrom moving from one emergency placement to the next; never settling down; never knowing where to call home.
Many of us think it is a 'special kind' of person who adopts or fosters. Of course giving a child a home is a pretty special thing to do, but the families who do so are just everyday people, just like you and I. The adopters and foster carers I have met who Barnardo's recruit and support literally light up when they speak about their adopted children or those they have fostered. How they fell in love with them, how they are watching them grow with such pride and how the children have changed their lives.
This week I've heard from people from all walks of life who have made the decision to become new mums and dads. Up and down the country lives have been changed by the positive influence of fostering and adoption and we want more people to experience the joy and happiness that caring for children in this way can bring.
Barry and David a same sex couple from North Wales adopted a brother and sister through us last year and told me about the joy of adopting a sibling group and that they wouldn't change a thing. Sarah, who has adopted three disabled children, spoke about the "love, joy, laughter, hugs, pride and fufilment" the kids have brought to her life.
You might have also heard Barnardo's supporter, member of the House of Lords and Dancing on Ice contestant Oona King talking so movingly about adoption on the TV show Lorraine. When people talk in these terms about the child they have adopted or fostered you start to realise the impact that it has on people who choose to make that step.
Of course taking on a child through either fostering or adopting is a huge responsibility and I am not for one second suggesting it's for everyone. I am however insistent that this life changing experience could make a difference to the lives of more children and their new families.
We want people who are considering becoming adoptive parents or foster carers to know that Barnardo's are here to support them as they decide to give this gift to those children who need it most. After all, finding homes for these youngsters, whether with a foster carer or a forever family, will light up not only their lives, but also the lives of their future parents too.
To find out more about fostering and adoption call 08000 277 280 or visit www.barnardos.org.uk/fosteringandadoption
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