Along with partner Alan, Brenda (59) is a foster carer in Bolton and couldn’t think of a better role.
The appeal of fostering
Brenda worked for 28 years as a development manager for a highly successful company. It was “a good job with a good income” but by 2016, she’d started to feel like she was on a roundabout and she wanted to get off.
Fostering had always appealed to her. Brenda comes from a big family and has always loved children. She has two daughters of her own and her sister is a foster carer.
“I wanted to offer another child what my own children had had,” she said.
“My sister fosters with an independent fostering agency so I looked into fostering agencies locally and contacted Fostering Solutions in Bolton [one of National Fostering Group’s agencies].
“They were great, they talked everything through with me and were always on the end of the phone if I had any questions. My dad had recently died and they recommended waiting for 12 months before starting to foster to give myself time to grieve.”
Brenda took voluntary redundancy from her job and completed the approvals process alongside her partner, Alan.
She has two daughters, one of whom was still living at home at the time. Both were actively involved in the discussions about fostering and both were supportive although there were some concerns, particularly in the early days.
Brenda admits to being apprehensive herself about looking after someone else’s child.
“It is scary, it’s a big responsibility but I knew I wanted to do and I love it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Fostering children with special needs
Brenda and Alan were approved as foster carers in September 2016. Their first placement was to provide respite foster care for a little boy. Next came their first long-term foster child – a girl of 12.
Sadly, the placement did not work out as the girl had some significant challenges and required more specialist care.
This was a low point for Brenda, whose mother was in a hospice at the same time, because she couldn’t help the girl in the way she wanted to. However, support from her supervising social worker and the girl’s own social worker helped.
Meeting the challenge
In July 2018, they began fostering a little girl of three who had global developmental delay. When she arrived, the girl wasn’t toilet trained, didn’t communicate and just wanted to watch television. She was traumatised and banged her head on the floor or hit out at people when she was angry.
Brenda and Alan found this challenging; Alan left his job for a while to be able to support her and the little girl.
However, barely three years on, their efforts have paid off. Their foster child is in mainstream school and has developed into a happy, chatty little girl with a sunny disposition. People compliment her on her good manners. Although she is still a bit behind her classmates, she is learning to read and doing well at school.
Brenda said: “People say you can’t love someone else’s child as much as your own but that’s not true. She is the most lovable child and we adore her.
“My grandson, who is a little bit older than her, calls me Nin and she’s copied that and calls me Ninny.”
Up for adoption
However, only after a year with Brenda and Alan, the local authority had decided to put the little girl up for adoption.
Brenda admitted to being devastated by this decision. When the girl left, she and Alan travelled to Cuba for a holiday. During their holiday, they received a call from the girl’s social worker, who said the adoption had broken down.
“I had expressed my concerns before the adoption as her adoptive parents had two other children whereas she was used to being the only child in our house.
When she came back, she told her social worker ‘I’m home’.
“You need time and patience for a little girl like that and she’d had ours 100% of the time. We were very sad for her that her adoption had broken down but delighted to take her back.
“My daughter went to our house and got everything ready for her. When she came back, she told her social worker ‘I’m home’.
“She’s now with us long-term and she is really settled. We have a great bond.”
Fostering in Bolton
Brenda describes Bolton as “a great place to foster”. They take their foster daughter swimming and to play centres, parks and the cinema. There are plenty of places for walking nearby and she loves their two dogs – a Yorkshire Terrier and a Jack Russell.
The reward of seeing their foster daughter start to thrive is the best part about fostering for Brenda.
She said: “We’ve made a massive difference in her life. She is now very settled and doing really well at school. She still has the occasional outburst but they are few and far between these days. The school has been great and we know that without all the support she has received she wouldn’t be where she is now.”
At the age of 59, Brenda hadn’t expected to be caring for such a young child but is loving doing all the things she used to do with her own children and grandchild.
Here’s her advice to anyone who is considering becoming a foster carer:
- Keep an open mind about the age of the children you will care for because every child is different.
- Brenda didn’t expect to be caring for such a young child at my age, but “it’s great”.
- Speak to the fostering agency beforehand and find out as much about the child as you can.
- It’s important to be sure that they will fit in with your life as it’s not good for children to keep being moved on, it has a big impact on them.
- Don’t be frightened to talk to the supervising social worker about anything – even finances – because they are there to help you.
She says: “Fostering isn’t a job, it’s my life and it’s our little girl’s life and we love her so much.”
Has Brenda inspired you?
If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, your local team can help answer any questions you have – get in touch using our form.