A South Stanley family has become the face of fostering in County Durham after agreeing to help raise awareness of the urgent need for more foster carers in the county.
Jan and Brian Peel are foster carers for Durham County Council alongside their son and daughter-in-law, Simon and Clair Peel, and soon their faces will be helping the council recruit even more carers for this rewarding role.
Residents who are thinking about fostering can come along and find out more at a drop-in information event, which is being held this Saturday (January 18, 10am to 2pm) at Spennymoor Leisure Centre.
It is an opportunity to hear about the fostering process, meet foster carers, and speak to someone from the council’s fostering team about any questions.
Jan and Brian have been fostering with the council for around 10 years now, after Jan decided to leave her job working with young people with behavioural issues, so that she could have even more impact on their lives.
She explained: “I would work with them during the week and then they’d go home at the weekend and sometimes you’d be back to square one by the next Monday – I just wanted to do something where I could be with them for longer and make an even greater difference and fostering just seemed like the perfect way to do that.”
But not only is Jan an inspiring role model to the young people she fosters, she’s inspired her own son and daughter-in-law to take up fostering too.
Daughter-in-law Clair explained: “We had to have IVF to have our own son and knew we didn’t want to go through that again but did want a bigger family. We could see what a difference Jan and Brian were making to the lives of the kids they had fostered and even though we’d thought about adoption at first, we thought we could help more children if we fostered.”
Although Clair and Simon had originally planned to wait until their own son was older, when they heard how many children were waiting for foster families, they decided to apply and when their son Josh was just one, they had been approved and offered a home to a teenage girl on an emergency placement.
Clair said: “Simon has been really involved with Jan and Brian’s fostering journey and our son Josh has never known any different – it wouldn’t be right for every family – but it works for us.”
The two families are now a support network for each other, and Jan’s daughter Emma is also hoping to foster when the time is right for her.
Jan said: “I love what I do, it’s the most amazing feeling seeing the difference you make, and I’m delighted when we get asked to go along to the information sessions or foster carer training to help share our experiences with people enquiring about becoming carers.
“People have funny ideas about teenagers in care, but they are just like any teenager – they want to feel safe and feel loved, sometimes they push the boundaries and sometimes they come in and just want a cuddle because there is still a little kid inside them – our job is to be there for them, listen, and guide them, the same way we do with our own children and grandchildren.”
And now it is Jan and Brian’s own children and grandchildren who are helping to share the message about fostering even further. The whole family has taken part in a photo shoot, showing what real foster families look like as part of the council’s drive to recruit more foster carers.
To find out how you could join Durham County Council’s fostering family and help make a real difference to a foster child’s life, visit www.durham.gov.uk/fostering for more information and details of upcoming information events.
Or call the fostering team on 03000 269 400 to ask a question or arrange a private appointment.