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13 years as Blackpool foster carers

The number thirteen may feel unlucky for some but for Blackpool foster carers, Wendy and Bob, it mar...

The number thirteen may feel unlucky for some but for Blackpool foster carers, Wendy and Bob, it marks the number of years they’ve been fostering, and they consider themselves to be more than just lucky.

We catch up with them to discover why, in their own words, they “just love” fostering and what advice they have to share with new foster carers.

What made you decide to become foster carers?

Wendy: “I’ve always thought about fostering but I had three children of my own and I was working full time in a job I enjoyed. I reached fifty years old, my children had left home, I had done everything I could do within my job, and I thought it was the right time to give something back to the community. Bob agreed with me, and so we went from there.”

Was adapting your life to become foster carers hard?

Wendy: “I’d say that life changed quite a lot. Initially, when we first thought about fostering, we thought that the children would fit into our routine and lifestyle, and that isn’t the case. You do need to be prepared to adjust your life and way of doing things. Looked after children need a lot of support and care as they adjust to living in a new foster home and so we have to fit in with their needs rather than the other way around.”

How rewarding is fostering?

Wendy: “It’s so rewarding. You get to make a big difference not just to children, but their family’s lives as well.”

Bob: “I’d say the same. I just love it; I love doing it. It’s all the little things along the way. The progress a child makes in our care. With very young children, you get to see all the milestones. You see how happy and excited they get by trying something new and doing things they were unable to do when they first arrived.

“Older children can be quite challenging because they often have different routines at home than they would do at our home. Even still, it’s amazing to see them doing the things they should and be looking they way they should look at their age.

“Considering how strange it is for them to be sent to a house with people they do not know, it’s remarkable and lovely how they soon adapt.”

How have your biological children found the fostering experience?

Wendy: “Well, although my own children do not live with us, it was important that they were onboard, and they’ve been very supportive from the start. When the first children and babies came to stay with us (13 years ago now), it was exciting. Now that they have children of their own, the novelty has worn off slightly though! They’ve got their own routines and responsibilities. But I am very mindful of treating all my grandchildren and fostered children the same. After all, you must think about your own family as well as the foster children living with you.”

What would you say to someone thinking of fostering?

Wendy: “You’ve got to be realistic. You’ve got to look for the little signs as some children are quite resentful at the start. They’ve been brought up in certain ways and so if we put boundaries in place, it can take a bit of adjustment at first.

“You cannot make any assumptions. Some children who have spent time in the care of several different people may be happy to try a new routine, foods and things they’ve never done before. For others, they may feel a strong sense of loyalty to their birth parents and feel as if they’re being disloyal by showing affection and engaging. Every child is different.

“Some children can appear to affectionate and perfectly fine on the outside but struggling with their thoughts and feelings. You must look for subtle changes, signs, and behaviours they may display.”

What one piece of advice would you give to a first-time foster carer?

Bob: “To be very open minded and not judgemental. We find, over the years, that there are countless reasons why children come into foster care, and often their background is quite complex. Do your very best to work with the birth family because it makes life a lot easier!”

Wendy: “Blackpool Council really help with the process as the assessments are incredibly thorough.”