A KIDDERMINSTER Barnado's foster carer is calling for people to get involved in this year's annual Foster Fortnight.
The theme of this year's campaign is 'Guess who fosters?' which aims to challenge stereotypes about who can and who cannot foster children.
Di Haywood, a former auxiliary nurse, has been providing short-term and respite care to children across the region through the charity's West Midlands Family Placement Scheme since 1984.
In 1998, Mrs Haywood lost her husband suddenly at the age of 52 and she believes the love and support of her children and foster children helped her pull through.
She said: "The children got me through that terrible time. They kept me going.
“I can truly say that I have never regretted my decision to foster with Barnardo’s and as I near retirement I remember all of the children I’ve had the privilege to help care for over the years. I’m still in touch with many of them and their parents.”
Foster Fortnight aims to highlight the work that foster carers do and to raise awareness of the need for 8,600 new foster carers across the UK so that each child coming into foster care can be placed with the right foster carer to meet their needs.
Barnardo’s does not have a typical foster carer as they are a diverse group of people who come from many different backgrounds.
The one thing they have in common is to provide a safe, loving, stable home environment to help a child grow and develop.
In 1992, Mrs Haywood's dedication to fostering was officially recognised when she became the first non-businesswoman to pick up Worcestershire’s Woman of Achievement Award.
As well as providing regular short breaks care for four Barnardo’s foster children, Mrs Haywood also has her own children and grandchildren.
She added: "It’s not unusual for me to have as many as 18 sitting down for Sunday lunch."
Many of the children she has cared for have complex health needs but as a former nurse, Mrs Haywood views it as an opportunity to put old skills to good use.
Barnado's welcome all applications regardless of race, religion, sexuality or marital status.
To find out more call West Midlands Family Placement Team on 01384 458585.