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“It Enriched Our Children’s Lives” – Wendy and Richard’s Story

Friday 24 May 2024

“If you’ve got a loving heart and a spare room, you can foster,” said Wendy. “I’d encourage anyone who’s thinking about it to give it a go. I was 45 when I started, I’m 56 now. There are foster carers who are older than me and foster carers who are younger than me. There are foster carers who are single, foster carers who are renters….  There are so many different types of foster carers.”

A really fulfilling experience

Wendy and husband, Richard have two birth children – a son and a daughter. They both love parenting and the idea of offering a home to a young person who’s not had the best start in life appealed to them. Their birth children were both teenagers when the family began to seriously consider fostering. Wendy said:

“We thought they were old enough by then to be OK with another young person living in the house. They were fully involved in the initial discussions and parts of the application process. Fostering is the best thing we ever did. It enriched our children’s lives and inspired my daughter to go on to study social work. For me, it’s been a really fulfilling experience. I had given up my full-time job when I had children and worked in play groups. Fostering offered me a challenging and rewarding career with lots of training and support.”

Next Step Fostering

Prior to joining Next Step Fostering – part of the National Fostering Group – Wendy and Richard were with another private fostering agency. Sadly, their very first placement with this agency proved more challenging than expected as the child had high-end needs. It broke down quite quickly, which is a source of regret to Wendy and Richard to this day.

“It was down to lack of experience on our part. We didn’t have the mechanisms in place to cope and, on reflection, it wasn’t the right match for us. We felt we’d failed him when he left. We wanted to continue fostering but decided to proceed with caution, doing respite fostering before we were ready to commit to another young person. We wanted to get used to different children with different needs and get more experience.”

After a year, the family moved to Next Step Fostering. They were looking for a small agency with a family feel but where they would be well-supported and trained, with the opportunity to meet with other foster carers.

Nurturing dreams

Wendy said:

“We got a really good feeling about Next Step. At first, we did mainly respite foster caring and we also cared for unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people, who we’re still in contact with today. Eight years ago, our current foster child came to live with us. He was eight at the time and had been in care since he was a baby. He’d had a few changes of foster home that were not his fault but, as a result, he found it hard to trust adults. He would contradict us and question us and wanted to be really independent all the time. Right from the start, though, we loved him and over the years he’s come to trust us. These days he’s doing really well at school and has dreams of becoming a professional footballer. We are helping to nurture those dreams at the same time as guiding him to have a Plan B in place just in case.”

The young person is in contact with some members of his birth family and, although family contact is sometimes difficult, his social worker and the fostering agency have supported him throughout.

Good foundations

Wendy describes fostering as “full of highs”. She said: “It’s seeing how well he’s doing, watching him succeed, attending meetings and reviews that praise his achievements and acknowledge how well he is developing as a young adult. He’s with us until he’s 18 or longer if he wants to stay. He has got good foundations for his adult life and we will be there to support him if he chooses to go on to university.”

Wendy and Richard praise the support they have received from their fostering agency, supervising social worker, the school and their wider support network, which includes their grown-up birth children.

We persevered

Wendy said:

“Many of these children have been through awful, traumatic experiences and you need to be able to put yourself in their shoes and understand that their behaviour is a way of reaching out and trying to communicate. But then you see them gain in confidence and start to grow and it’s so rewarding.

“There’s such a need for foster carers, if you’re considering it, I’d say go for it. It didn’t go smoothly for us at first, but we persevered and it’s great now, we’ve had some real success stories. Take your time, choose an agency that offers good training and support and make sure you have your own support network because you’ll need it.”

If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible, try our Can I Foster? tool, which answers common questions about suitability to foster, based on a personalised Q and A style format. The outcome might surprise you! If you’re ready to chat with one of our fostering advisors, contact your local team.

Find out if you could be a foster carer
Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.