Fostering is a 24-hour job that requires love, dedication and a lot of hard work. LIZ LAMB chats to two women who have experienced the highs and lows of looking after someone else’s child.
“One of the little boys, he tore all the way through my heart,” says Lesley. “ He chiseled his way into my heart and I had to have a few months of counselling to let go because I so wanted to keep him. I just found it really difficult.
“I defy anybody to say they can keep all the children at a distance because you can’t. To help them you have to let them in. They have to feel truly loved.
“You think that you can never love a child like you love your own children but these little boys, because of their ages, they came to us so small, so dependent on us for all their needs.
“I loved them dearly and I miss them so much.”
The grandmother-of-six keeps in touch with the boys who are settled and happy with their adoptive parents. For her, caring for someone else’s child meant making a difference to the world.
She explains: “I had a hysterectomy at 30 so could not have any more children. I have my own family but I wanted to make a difference to children who were not having a happy life.
“My desire was to help families who were struggling. I love my job, and it is a job, and the best bit is to see them happy. Your life is enriched too.”
Before anyone can foster a child they must go through a vigorous application process where their past is laid bare and where no stone is left unturned. They must also receive training.
“It was a long drawn out process and very intensive,” explains Lesley, who signed up with Team Fostering, a North East not-for-profit organisation, who provide care for children and young people across the region. “There is nothing you can hide, you have to lay yourself open and it’s a lengthy process but it is very important they do that because they have to make sure they are the right people.”
It is not just couples who are able to care for foster children. Patsy Marshall is single and has been a foster carer for 13 years. She has looked after dozens of children and teenagers.
She first thought about fostering in the early 80s. “I was married and I lost a baby and it ended up that I could not have children,” explains the 54-year-old. “My next door neighbour used to foster and I mentioned it to my husband but he wasn’t interested. He didn’t want to bring other people’s children up and it was forgotten.”
A few years later, after she had divorced, Patsy considered the possibility of fostering again.
She says: “I phoned around a few local authorities and agencies. I have two sisters who died of breast cancer and I got a lot of negative reaction from some agencies.