A campaign has been launched to help fill the shortage of foster carers in West Cumbria.

There are currently 683 Cumbrian children in care, including 166 from Allerdale and 132 from Copeland.

But Cumbria County Council currently only has 179 fostering households, with 62 in the west of the county.

A council spokesman said the authority urgently needs more people to come forward to offer safe and caring homes to local children who, for a variety of reasons, can no longer be cared for by their own families.

Many people who consider becoming a foster carer are not aware that there are many different types of fostering.

This includes short and long term, respite, specialist parent and child or baby placements, fostering siblings, emergency fostering and other types.

The different types of fostering reflect the variety of needs of individual children.

Short-term fostering sees carers can look after children for anything from a few days to two years. This type of fostering might suit those who wish to make a difference to as many children as possible.

Long-term fostering enables children who cannot return home to secure a permanent, long-term placement with a family for the rest of their childhood.

This type of fostering would suit those who feel they would find it difficult to say goodbye to a child in their care after building an attachment.

Shared care offers short breaks to a family who have a child with a disability. Shared carers are matched with a child they could care for on a regular basis for a weekend, a holiday or occasional overnight stays. This might suit people who work full time.

Approved support care, also known as respite, provides temporary breaks to existing carers at weekends and during holidays.

People who work full time often find this type of fostering suits their lifestyle as it is very flexible and children can be placed at times that are convenient for them by prior arrangement.

Parent and child fostering placements are a specialist type of fostering where a young parent, usually a mother, and baby, stay with foster carers at a time when they need extra support.

The young mum might be having difficulties looking after their new baby, or need some extra help and advice so that she can do it well.

Specialist baby fostering means carers will have to be available 24 hours a day, the same as all parents.

Baby foster carers are usually required to work with the birth parents, especially in the arrangements for regular, supervised contact.

Different types of fostering require different types of people with a range of experience and from a variety of backgrounds.

Whether you work or are retired, are married or single, have children of your own or no childcare experience, there is likely to be a type of fostering which fits with your lifestyle.

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Lyndsey O’Hare, of Workington, has been a specialist baby foster carer for three years.

She said: “I’ve never looked back - it’s been amazing. I love the babies absolutely no differently to my own children.

"If you’ve got room in your heart and your family, I would urge anyone to foster. The difference you can make by offering a child love, attention and a caring home is so rewarding.

Tracey and Rob Jackson, of Whitehaven, are short-term foster carers who also offer parent and child placements.

They said: “As our two boys grew older and we still felt young in ourselves, we realised we wanted to give something back. That’s how the fostering came about.

“Becoming foster carers wasn't about us, it was about the children. It was seeing there was a real need and we could do something to help.

"If children are born into particularly difficult situations we want to be able to provide them with a new life and new hope.”

Councillor Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “As our latest campaign shows, there are a range of different fostering schemes and whatever your situation, there will be a scheme to match the help you can offer.

“There are many myths about who can become a foster carer, but what really matters is that you are committed to children and able to offer a stable and secure home. If you do decide to become a foster carer you will not be expected to 'go it alone'. From your first enquiry to each subsequent placement you'll be fully supported.”

The council will host a series of events in the coming weeks to let people know more about fostering.

There will be a drop-in event at Costa in Washington Square, Workington, on Tuesday, April 30, noon to 2pm.

On Saturday, May 11 there will be an information event at the Washington Central Hotel in the town. Doors open at 10am, with the presentation at 10.30am.

There will also be an information stand at Party in the Park in Vulcan Park, Workington, on Saturday, May 25 from 11am to 4pm.

For more information about fostering, go to cumbria.gov.uk/fostering or call 0303 333 1216.