Foster carers in North Yorkshire have been celebrating, after smashing an ambitious recruitment target.
The 100 Smiles Campaign, launched in September 2003 by the County Council's Fostering North Yorkshire team, set out to recruit 100 carers in just three years; the hundredth carer was recruited in December - nine months ahead of schedule.
Newly recruited foster carers celebrate at County Hall.
Pictured are 100th carer Christine Wild (centre)
Ann Parker of Northallerton (left),
and Dorothy McIntyre of Harrogate (right).
To mark the milestone and thank the new carers Fostering North Yorkshire hosted an event at County Hall in Northallerton.
There was a short presentation followed by a special lunch, with contributions from some of the 100 newly recruited carers.
Christine Wild, the 100th foster carer to be recruited attended the event; she cares for children aged four to twelve and said: "When you're in an older age group you can feel like an untapped source of love.
"My husband died ten years ago, and my own daughter and grandchild live away. I saw an advert in the council newspaper, so I thought I had the time and wanted to do something useful".
Children in foster care often need lots of love and support, whether it is because a member of their own family is ill, or whether there are problems of drug and alcohol abuse in the family.
Christine added: "I can offer time and love at my age as I have no young children, which means I can give the children my full attention.
"Fostering has given me contact with many different people who I wouldn't normally have any contact with. It's given me a whole new life, though the pleasure of helping a child along its way is the main thing".
Taking a child in to your home can prove to be a daunting prospect, coming as they do from a wide variety of backgrounds. The fostering team offers advice every step of the way and runs a series of events to prepare prospective fosterers; something that Christine says was invaluable:
"At first it was quite frightening, because I didn't have a child care background. It was a really steep learning curve and a bit daunting, but the preparation days were very useful and informative. Generally the experience has been a good one."
For anyone considering becoming a foster carer, Christine has the following advice: "If you have a real burning desire to do it, just go for it.
"Fostering always seemed to me to be a 'closed shop,' and that I wouldn't be accepted because of my age. Now people are accepted from many different backgrounds and lifestyles".
Councillor John Watson, the County Council's executive member for children's services, said: "It's wonderful to see so many people here who have opened up their homes and their hearts to care for children who are in need of love and attention.
"Seeing this campaign become such a success so quickly reflects the caring nature of the people of North Yorkshire, and also acknowledges the fact that there are still many children who are in need.
"This achievement is a huge encouragement for the County Council, and more importantly, children all over the County".