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Reality TV stars join DfE to shine a spotlight on foster carers

The Only Way is Essex stars Debbie Douglas and Lydia Bright join the DfE as fostering ambassadors.

Reality television star and foster carer for more than 20 years, Debbie Douglas, has been named the government’s newest fostering ambassador, alongside her daughter Lydia Bright.

Debbie, 54, and her partner Dave Bright have fostered more than 250 children over the past 22 years, while also raising 4 biological children, including Lydia.

The mother and daughter, stars of ITV show The Only Way is Essex, have been asked by Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson to joinexisting ambassador and celebrity chef Lorraine Pascale in encouraging foster carers from a broader variety of backgrounds to step up to the task.

Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, said:

As someone who grew up as part of a large foster family, I know only too well that fostering can be one of the most rewarding experiences, as well as having a life-changing impact on a child.

Debbie is an inspiration to many, not least the hundreds of children she has taken in. I’m delighted that she and Lydia have agreed to come on board as fostering ambassadors. I know that together we can encourage more people from a wide variety of backgrounds to open their hearts and homes to children waiting to be fostered.

In the role, Debbie and Lydia will be using their first-hand experience to encourage people to consider becoming foster carers, and dispel some of the myths that make some people believe they would not be suitable, such as work arrangements or relationship status.

Debbie was first inspired to foster in 1993, thanks to a chance meeting with a foster mum in a pizza parlour.

And more than 20 years and 250 children later - from newborn babies to teenagers - she has not looked back.

Debbie Douglas said:

It is an honour to be asked to become a fostering ambassador, and I can’t wait to get started. I’m looking forward to working with the Department for Education to encourage more people to think about fostering children.

I have such an incredible family, with so many children and young people. It hasn’t always been easy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s big and it’s a lot of fun, especially this time of year.

Some of the children Debbie has looked after have come to her with heart-breaking stories - of alcohol or drug use, neglect or abuse. But she does not give up on them and, in the end, only 4 placements have not worked out.

Lydia Bright, Debbie’s daughter, said:

I’m so honoured to be asked to be a fostering ambassador alongside my Mum. Fostering has had such a huge impact on my life - I’d love for others to experience that.

Growing up was like being on a constant school trip - bunking up, sharing things and just being part of a huge fun family. I’m really proud of my Mum - she’s my hero, and our extended family is now so big I can’t imagine not having all these siblings around.

Debbie and Lydia join current Fostering Ambassador Lorraine Pascale, who began in the role a year ago and has been using her experiences as a fostered child to champion foster care as widely as possible.

It is the latest in a series of government measures aimed at encouraging people from a broader range of backgrounds to become foster carers.

The government has also changed the law so that care leavers can stay with their foster family until their 21st birthday, and is investing more than £100 million through the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme to support vulnerable children.

Notes to editors

  1. mythbuster on who can become foster parents is available.
  2. To support foster carers, the government has:
    • changed the rules so that children in care can stay with their former foster carers until their 21st birthday, enabling them to make the transition to adulthood and independence when they are ready
    • provided £775,000 to help fostering services recruit and retain more foster carers from a wider range of backgrounds
    • funded Fosterline - a confidential free-of-charge advice service for foster carers
    • streamlined the rules to make the foster carer assessment process clearer and more efficient
    • changed the rules so that foster carers have the power to make day-to-day decisions about their foster children - such as haircuts and school trips - allowing them to get on with the job of looking after their foster child
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