“WE are a foster family and we open our home, but most importantly we open our hearts,” says TOWIE’s Debbie Douglas as she fronts Barnardo’s fostering campaign.

The Barnardo’s supporter, along with her daughter Lydia Bright and teenage foster daughter Ellie, are backing the national children’s charity’s urgent appeal for more foster carers in the UK.

Debbie said “Fostering is not for all people – and definitely not for the faint-hearted – but I can honestly say, really and truly, that I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else.

“I have been a foster mum for over 22 years, I have fostered over 250 children, from babies to teenagers, and I have loved it.”

Debbie has teamed up with Barnardo’s to appeal for more people to come forward to foster vulnerable teenagers. It’s estimated that there are almost 50,000 teenagers in care in the UK – around 60% of the total number of looked-after children.

But despite estimates that a child goes into care every 20 minutes in the UK*, there are not enough foster carers to look after them, says Barnardo’s which has been caring for children for more than 150 years.

Debbie added: “Being a teenager is hard at the best of times and being a teenager in care can be even harder.

“Having a stable, happy, loving home where you can relax and be yourself while knowing you’re genuinely cared for, is so important.

“As a family, we’re so pleased we’ve been able to give this to so many young people like Ellie, who has been part of our family for 11 years.

Ellie said: “Having someone there for you when you get home from school, someone to listen to you or give you a hug when you need it, can make such a difference.

“Being part of Debbie and Lydia’s family has made such a positive difference to my life.”

Ellie, Romana, Lydia and Georgia

Lydia said: “It was amazing growing up in such a huge, fun and loving family with so many different teenagers and children.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a foster sister to them all. Being a part of their lives has been incredible.

“I learnt so much growing up with them all – about sharing, being kind to others and not judging people. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

“If you think you could open your home to a teenager I’d really encourage you to do so as you’ll benefit as much as they will.”

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan explained that without enough foster families thousands of teenagers are at risk of being moved around and separated from their siblings which can be heart breaking for them.

He added: “Foster families support teenagers and help them learn essential life skills which are vital in helping them go on to lead positive independent lives.

“Being a teenager can be tough but having the support of a stable caring family can transform their lives. I’d urge anyone considering becoming a foster carer to contact us today.”

To enquire about fostering visit Barnardo’s website at www.barnardos.org.uk/fostering