A safe and loving home is something some children never experience until they end up in the care of a foster parent like Penny Slater.
The mum-of-four became a foster carer three years ago and said it is the most rewarding experience her and husband Simon Hook have ever undertaken.
Mrs Slater, hopes that by sharing her story during Foster Care fortnight, which runs until Sunday, May 26, she can help inspire others to sign up and help tackle the chronic shortage of foster families.
The 53-year-old said: “Whether you have the children for two weeks, or two years, you can help make a huge difference to their lives.
“We’ve seen children who are shocked that we have an evening meal because they have never had one before. Others who have never slept in a bed, or are only used to eating out of bins and some who even want to sleep in new shoes or clothes that we have bought them because they have never had anything new before and really cherish them.
“There is nothing better than seeing a child smile for the first time in your care, or seeing them try a new food for the first time. When they return to family members, or go for adoption, you know you have played an important part in their life.”
The number of children in need of foster care has risen dramatically because of heightened public awareness about child protection issues. Wakefield currently needs 50 foster families.
Mrs Slater said: “You get so much support with on-call social workers and groups to go to, as well as the opportunity to gain qualifications. I would urge anyone thinking of becoming a foster carer to go for it.”
Hundreds of foster carers from across West Yorkshire were honoured at a celebration event in Leeds last weekend.
Coun Judith Blake, from Foster4Yorkshire, said: “Foster carers do an amazing job. It is thanks to them that we are able to provide stable and loving homes to some of the most vulnerable children in West Yorkshire.
“The need for more foster carers to come forward and take up this vital role has never been more critical. We desperately need more foster carers for babies, toddlers, young children, teenagers and sibling groups. The number of children in West Yorkshire who are in foster care has risen to more than 2,100 and is still rising.”
For details visit www.room-in-wakefield.co.uk