‘It’s critical families come forward’: Manchester landmarks go dark to shine light on foster care crisis

Some of Manchester’s most famous illuminated landmarks will be switched off to raise awareness for foster care in the North West.

Foster care charity Child Action Northwest’s (CANW) #1200Lights campaign will see the intu Trafford Centre and Imperial War Museum among the buildings across the region dimmed for one minute at 8:30pm on Friday evening.

Statistics show that the North West needs 1200 more foster families this year alone – the biggest shortage in the country – and CANW Head of Services Julie Dawkins hopes the campaign will help narrow the gap.

“It is critical for foster families to come forward,” she told MM.

“We’re talking about preventing children from becoming homeless, getting stuck in the penal system, taking drugs and alcohol, or making poor relationships.

“It can be lifesaving.

“Quite often with fostering people have it in the back of their minds; they rule themselves out, they rule themselves in – there’s a lot of thinking going on.

“Our campaign is about getting people to think ‘well where can we take that thought?’ to try and meet that shortfall.”

The Manchester landmarks join others across the North West, including the Blackpool Tower, and the switch-off coincides with a fundraising concert at Blackburn cathedral run by the charity.

Julie explained that the campaign has particular poignancy this close to Christmas.

“People start thinking about family with all the Christmas adverts,” she said.

“I sit and watch the John Lewis advert and think of the amount of children out there who watch that who have never even touched what Christmas might be like in some families.

“People start to think: ‘what does it mean being in a family? What do we take for granted?’ It can make a profound difference to the child.

“Our foster carers are just ordinary people who transform the lives of children.

“It’s very much a team approach – supporting the foster carers is important so that they don’t feel they are left alone looking after these children. That’s not our approach here.”

CANW will also be hosting a drop-in session on December 8 from 1:30pm – 6:30pm, where prospective foster families can find out more information from the staff who support them.

Julie said: “The kettle’s on, so come and have a chat. It’s not signing up; it’s coming and exploring what it means.”

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