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  • Durham OnAir

Durham parents suffering from 'Empty Nest' syndrome asked to consider fostering.

According to a recent survey [1], 39% of parents across County Durham with children who have either recently moved out or will be leaving home soon, agree* that they suffered from or are expecting to suffer from empty nest syndrome. This is a term which can refer to a feeling of loneliness, sadness and loss of purpose that some parents experience when their child moves out of the home.

This comes as record numbers of 18-year-olds are set to move out of home for university this autumn, leaving thousands of families with a potential spare room that could be offered to a child in care.

With more than 13,000 learners across the North East going to university this year [2], it would take just over 4% of those students’ parents to meet the current shortfall of carers. As the number of children entering the care system continues to rise, it is estimated that there are 580 foster homes currently needed across the North East region [3]. Foster carers are paid to look after children on a short or long term basis.

The survey, conducted by The Fostering Company North East, an independent fosteringorganisation and part of the Five Rivers social enterprise family - which is based in Killingworth and has foster carers across County Durham, is urging ‘empty nesters’ who are concerned about having feelings of loneliness and loss of purpose, to consider fostering children in need of a safe place to call home.

While some students will return home during the holidays and after university, empty nesters can still support vulnerable children and young people by exploring short break foster care.

The Fostering Company North East is looking for individuals, couples and families from all

backgrounds across County Durham who may be interested in foster care. There are a number of fostering roles available that vary in terms of length of commitment including:

Short-term or short break foster carers - This can apply to an overnight stay or a period of a few weeks or months for when children or young people require time away from their birth families or existing care support.

Long-term foster carers – Carers who can provide comfort and stability to children and young adults who are unable to live with their families. Depending on individual circumstances, children and young adults can remain with long-term carers until the age of 18 or when they are able to live independently.

Parent and child fostering – Parent and child fostering involves fostering a new parent and their young baby to help develop and assess their parenting skills.

Commenting on the current need for foster carers across the North East, Camilla Hunter,

Registered Manager at the Fostering Company North East, said: “We’re appealing to those parents across County Durham who have children moving away to university in the coming weeks to ask if they’d consider caring for a child in need of a safe and loving home. With 46% of parents surveyed agreeing* that the pandemic has increased their feelings about having an empty nest [4], we hope that people will see this as an opportunity not only to change a child’s life, but could also provide them with a new sense of purpose. Fostering is also beneficial to those who want to work from home and don’t want to be restricted by a 9-5 schedule.

“While potential long-term foster carers are crucial to supporting the thousands of children in care across the UK, the industry is underpinned by those offering short break foster care. Being a short- term foster carer with The Fostering Company North East offers career flexibility and 24/7 support from qualified and experienced staff and a wide range of specialist training.

“We’re keen to hear from people with space in their home and their hearts who are nurturing, compassionate and enjoy supporting others, as well as anyone who has questions about fostering and the variety of roles available.”

People from across England, from all backgrounds and communities can be considered to become foster carers but they must be over 25 years of age. This includes single people, co-habiting couples, LGBTQ+ couples and people living in rented accommodation. You will need a spare room for each foster child.

You can find out more about fostering with the Fostering Company North East on 01912 836 774, email or visit


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