FORMER Oxford United manager Mark Wright has urged people to help look after needy children.
The former England defender was visiting the city yesterday as part of Foster Care Fortnight, to raise awareness for the lack of foster carers.
Fostering agency Foster Care Associates says 10,000 more carers are needed across the UK.
Mr Wright, 50, who grew up in Dorchester on Thames, became a foster carer after learning about the plight of some children through his wife Sue’s career as a barrister specialising in family law.
He said: “When you are a footballer or sports person every day you are in your own little bubble.
“My wife is a barrister specialising in family law and child protection and when she brought some cases home it really made me aware of how many children are out there suffering. For a country full of millions, how are we 10,000 foster carers short?”
Mr Wright played for Oxford in the early 80s before enjoying a glittering career at Southampton, Derby and Liverpool in the 1980s and 90s. He played for England 45 times and scored a header against Egypt in the group stage of the 1990 World Cup.
He is now an ambassador for the FCA, having fostered four children over six years and is currently looking after a young girl.
He said: “The hardest thing is when you see them leave.”
Mr Wright managed the U’s in 2001 when they were newly relegated to the Football League’s bottom division.
He was in Oxford as part of a car rally across Britain organised by the FCA to raise awareness for foster caring.
Olwyn Skinner, fostering service manager for the FCA, said: “The point of this event is to get the wider public to know more about fostering and the type of person who can foster.
“A lot of people would like to do it but either because they are single or are in a same-sex relationship or don’t own their own home they think they won’t be able to foster.
“If you have got some room in your heart and some room in your house, then please think about it.”
She was joined by Wantage foster carer Michael Kelly, 59, who with his wife Linda has taken in around 10 children in the seven years they have been fostering.
He said: “There are a few rules that come into play but it is like having your own family.”
An information evening on fostering will take place tomorrow from 6.30pm to 8pm at County Hall, New Road, Oxford.
County council spokesman Owen Morton said: “The county council currently has 293 registered foster carer households providing a range of foster care placements from emergency and short-term to long-term and specialist placements. The majority of children are successfully placed with foster carers, though when this cannot be done, children are placed with fostering agencies.”
- Visit oxfordshire.gov.uk/ fostering or call 0800 7835724.
- See tomorrow’s Oxford Mail for more about Foster Care Fortnight.
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