Leeds ,

New adapted home unveiled for Leeds foster family

A foster family from Bramley who have cared for disabled children for 37 years have been presented with a newly adapted home to help them look after a very special little boy.

George and Julie Stewart have been foster carers for Leeds City Council since 1987 and started looking after Archie* – who has cerebral palsy - for short breaks four years ago. George and Julie became Archie’s full time foster carers but their house was not suitable and could not be adapted for Archie’s wheelchair and other equipment.

Following a city-wide search, Leeds City council housing officers, occupational therapists and fostering services came together to find the right home for the family which could be adapted to meet Archie’s needs, and enable George and Julie to care for him full time, whilst also being short breaks carers for another disabled child.

The family’s new house was an unused former school building, which was converted back into a house with ground floor adaptations. The adaptation work included reconfiguring the ground floor to provide a new ground floor bedroom with en-suite wet-room, as well as an access ramp to allow for level access into the new home and easy-to-reach light switches so Archie can be more independent. Archie will also have an outside play area for the first time so he can ride his adapted bike with friends. The adaptations allow for future works to meet Archie’s needs as he grows older.

As well as the adaptations the house renovations also include a new kitchen, new bathroom, rewiring, stripping out an old air conditioning system an installing new central heating, decorations, partial re-roofing, new external and internal doors and numerous repairs.

George says that caring for Archie keeps him feeling young and acting young. “Every day is different and Archie is always on the go. He’s such a great lad, always up for anything and full of enthusiasm”.

Julie said “We’re so proud of Archie and all his antics. We make sure we treat him like any other child and encourage him in everything he wants to do. It’s amazing how he gets around. He’s not interested in what he can’t do he just enjoys his life full on. He’s really bright and we’re all looking forward to him starting his new school. He’s just like any other child and likes to see what mischief he can get away with!

“Fostering is what we do. We’ve had ups and downs in our 37 years as foster carers but it has been fulfilling. Our own children are better adults from their childhoods being part of a fostering family”.

Leeds City Council need more foster carers like Julie and George to help build a positive future for Leeds children.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon executive member responsible for children and families said:

“Here in Leeds we have an ambition to be a child friendly city and to be the best city for children to grow and develop. By investing in the future for children like Archie, we can make sure all children, regardless of their needs and abilities can benefit from this ambition.

“We are looking for foster carers who share our vision and want the very best for the children of Leeds. We are particularly seeking foster carers for disabled children, teenagers, and sibling groups. We are also looking for foster carers who want to offer a permanent home to a child or a sibling group.

“At the moment we are looking for the right permanent family for a boisterous 12 year old boy who loves getting out and about and is a wheelchair user, so we’d encourage anyone who might be interested to get in touch.”

Councillor Debra Coupar executive member responsible for communities said:

“We are delighted to have been able to hand over this newly-adapted property to George and Julie and their family so they can continue their amazing work fostering children with disabilities. With the help of our contractors Mears we have been able to convert a disused property into a practical and comfortable home for Archie and another disabled child looked after by the family.”

Jason Smithies, operations manager for Mears Group, said:

"Mears are extremely happy to help Housing Leeds provide these adaptation works to assist George and Julie to become full time carers for Archie. The tireless work they have done for the last 37 years shows how special they are and Mears are fully behind them and Leeds City Council's Fostering Initiatives. We hope the family enjoy their new home and make many more years of happy memories within it.”

People who are interested in finding out more about fostering for Leeds should visit www.leeds.gov.uk/foster4leeds‎ or call 0113 247 7443.

*Archie is not his real name.

Interviews with George and Julie can be arranged through Leeds City Council press office.