Every 22 minutes across the UK, a child comes into care and needs a foster carer.
There is ever increasing pressure on the care system to find the most appropriate homes for these children so that they can have the best possible chance of a positive future. Foster carers who have the skills to work with, encourage and aid the development of a child are often the best people to care for these children.
An estimated 8,750 new foster carers are needed across the UK in 2012 and during this year's Foster Care Fortnight (14 to 27 May) the Fostering Network is urging more people to become foster carers.
The Fostering Network is running the 22 minutes campaign during Foster Care Fortnight 2012 to highlight how foster carers can have an amazing impact on the future of a child who can no longer be looked after at home.
Last year, more than 24,000 children came into care and needed fostering, an increase of 17 per cent compared to 2008. And the total number of children who are fostered has risen for five years in a row.
By recruiting and retaining foster carers with the right skills to look after children, there is a much greater chance of a child can have a stable upbringing. Good matching of children and foster carers can mean that a child doesn't have to move schools, leave their friends and move to an unfamiliar area.
Clare Marshall was in care from the age of two. After being moved around more than 40 times, she lived in a stable long-term foster home. She said: "I had some tough experiences at the start, but I think it gave me the determination, inspiration and ambition I needed.
"My foster carer, who I now see as my mum, always instilled good values in me and she's why I've been successful and gone on to university. She's encouraged me to go for everything I want to achieve and has been the biggest inspiration in my life."
Being a foster carer can be very difficult but the rewards can be unquantifiable, with foster carers recently surveyed saying that fostering is a great thing for them and their family to do and that it is a fantastic way to develop and improve their skills.
Foster carers provide a really diverse range of support for children from birth until they are 18 and move on to independent living, although some children do also stay with their foster families as young adults. There are many different types of fostering from long-term to short-term to respite and foster carers can specialise in looking after teenagers, disabled children, babies and so on. Foster carers are trained and supported by their fostering agencies so that they can provide the care that each child needs.
Jim Bond, a foster carer who looks after teenagers, said: "Nearly 20 years ago I decided to give up a career in teaching to become a foster carer, and it is the best decision I could have made.
"I feel proud to have been able to make a difference to the lives of so many children and I would urge others to consider doing the same. So, this Foster Care Fortnight, why not find out more and see if you've got what it takes?"
Singer and TV personality Gareth Gates is the son of a foster carer, and is supporting this year's Foster Care Fortnight campaign. He said of his experiences: "When I was growing up, I was always surrounded by lots of other children. In addition to my three sisters my Mum and Dad fostered children. Over the years around 50 boys and girls of all ages, from different backgrounds have been a part of our family.
Foster carers from all backgrounds and experiences are needed so that children with often complex needs and a wide variety of interests can be found the placement that will give them the best opportunity in the future.
Gareth continued, "My parents wanted to give other children some of the security and love that we had. Many of the kids who came into our family didn't have a great start in life and I know my Mum and Dad made a huge difference. I have seen first-hand, what a difference a foster carer can make on a child's life."
Oscar-nominated film star Samantha Morton said: "As a foster child myself I would not be where I am today without the people that were kind enough to help and care for me when others were unable.
"Please please consider fostering a child."
Find out more about what it means to be a foster carer by visiting the 22 Minutes campaign website.Suggest a correction