Childhood is a very special time, filled with moments we never forget and memories that will live with us forever. Whether it's the smell of chlorine from weekend trips to the swimming pool, the sound of the school bell announcing break-time is over or the painful sting of a grazed knee that brings you back, these are the experiences that form us and are key to preparing us for what lies ahead.
As a father of four, exalted by the most rewarding and important job in the world, I strive to recreate those memories for my children, in the hope that those early influences will prepare them for adult life and result in a successful and happy future.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the chance to look back on their formative years as a family time of fun, love and laughter. For many children in the care system, the comfort and stability of a family home remains out of reach, and their future could be just as uncertain.
In 'Foster Care Fortnight' (12-25 May), it is important that we focus on the great instability that faces the 90,000 children growing up in care in the UK whilst also recognising the commitment of those who have embraced the benefits of foster care, opening their heart and their home to a child in need.
As I go around the country and meet the children we work with, I see the affection and trust they have for their foster parents and the unmistakable bond of love they have formed. I've seen foster carers glow with pride as they watch their child interacting with others and hear them confidently speak about their family and loved ones.
I am awed by the inspirational carers who give a home to children who have often suffered so much and find the courage and empathy to give joy to young lives. The capacity to love, sheer generosity and genuine interest in caring for children that I have seen has given me hope that there are more people out there who care about those children who have no one.
By providing a warm and secure home, foster carers ensure that memories of childhood such as magical family holidays, summer days at the seaside and special family times are imprinted on a child's memory and cherished forever. With the added benefit of observing a child grow, prosper and develop in your care, a career in fostering is one that never ceases to invoke a strong sense of job satisfaction and empowerment.
As a fostering agency, Barnardo's believes that every child has the right to a stable home and happy childhood. Without the right foster family to care for them, many vulnerable children may never experience the love and stability they so desperately need. Understandably, this can leave an ever-lasting print on their adult lives. Many care leavers are more likely to become homeless, suffer from a mental health disorder, be unemployed and spend time in prison.
Current calculations estimate an urgent recruitment target of 8,600 new foster carers across the country. As a result of this shortfall, growing up in foster care often involves multiple house moves, with a third of all children in foster care having two or more different homes and therefore families, in just one year.
Barnardo's has jointly achieved massive success for children in care recently, through lobbying for the Staying Put reforms, allowing young people to stay in foster care up to age 21. This is a great win for children in foster care, who will now see their start in adult life radically improved but this is sure to create even more demand for more foster carers to come to the fore.
Fostering is a caring career, for those who feel they have a lot of love to give. We are keen to speak to older people with life experience, whether they are parents themselves or not and do not exclude anyone from consideration on the grounds of marital status, gender, sexual orientation, disability or employment status.
People may feel the challenge of fostering is too great but Barnardo's views its relationship with foster carers as a partnership offering continued support, training and advice for as long as it is needed.
Childhood experiences and memories, happy or otherwise are something we never forget; they shape who we are and live with us forever. It is time to focus on fostering and ensure foster care does not become adoption's poor relation.
To find out more about fostering visit www.barnardos.org.uk/fostering or call 08000 277 280