Our foster carer stories

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a foster carer? Or thought about the skills and qualities needed to take on this role?

We want to help answer those questions and show you that foster carers come from all backgrounds and bring a diverse range of life and work experience.

Case studies

Michelle and Sharon's storyMichelle and Sharon

Foster carers Michelle and Sharon Palmer-Lowe have been fostering for four years. They tell us about why they decided to become foster carers, what it’s like to foster teenagers, and why they believe fostering siblings can be beneficial for everyone involved.

Michelle says...

Our daughter was on the verge of spreading her wings and leaving home. Sharon had always wanted to have more children when she was younger, and I’d not been able to have children but had always wanted to. We felt it was perfect timing to look into foster care and just decided to go to an open evening.

Since then, we’ve fostered eleven children, some long-term, and we also took care of some children for shorter periods of time on an emergency basis during the pandemic.

We’re currently taking care of two teenage girls. When we first thought about fostering, we thought we’d be more suited to looking after cute three-year-olds, it can be easy to overlook teenagers, but in some ways they often need you more. They need guidance as they’re becoming adults because it can be such a difficult time. We try to treat them as adults as much as we can, but always keep in mind that they’re still children.

We’ve fostered siblings in the past and have always enjoyed knowing that we were helping to keep a family together. It really helps the children as it gives them a sense of normality, being together with their sisters or brothers.

Fostering more than one child at a time is rewarding, even if they aren’t related, as you do see them starting to take care of each other as if they were. You’re still a family.

One of the challenges we found with foster care, is that you have to remember that the children aren’t yours and so you can’t treat them exactly as if they are. Often the aim is for the children to at some point return to their birth families, and that’s often what the children want, they are often very loyal to them, so we always keep that in mind.

We’ve been so lucky though in that we’ve stayed in touch with a lot of the children we’ve looked after. It’s funny as at the time of looking after them you don’t always realise that you’re making any difference to them, and then when they’ve moved on you get messages and pictures and you realise that you have.

One of the highlights is seeing the children make progress. We fostered one young person who couldn’t speak very well when she first came to us, but within weeks there was no shutting her up! It’s so lovely knowing you’ve been a part of helping them to progress.

We’ve never found being part of the LGBTQ+ community to be an issue in any way. From the moment we expressed an interest in fostering with Wigan Council, we were never treated any differently to any of the other foster carers, we were always treated with respect.

Before we looked into it we weren’t 100% sure that we would be allowed to foster, so I’m keen to get the word out there to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community that you can.

If you’re even thinking a little bit about it, just do it, jump in, find out more. There are so many children who are desperate for care, and you really can change their lives.

Heather’s story

Heather foster carer

Heather, from Leigh, decided to become a foster carer after her children left home a few years ago. She took some time to think about her decision before making her enquiry and is now on her way to becoming a foster carer with us.

Heather says...

When my own children moved out, the house seemed empty and far too quiet.

At times, I didn’t know what to do with myself because I’d been so used to being a busy mum. My spare time had been spent supporting them with chosen activities and taking them places. Then they no longer needed me in the same way. I knew this wasn’t a bad thing because I’d successfully equipped them with the tools to make their own way in life.

I first started to think about becoming a foster carer about three years ago. We had a visit at work from the Mockingbird team, telling us about fostering with Wigan Council and how the Mockingbird project can support foster carers and I thought it sounded amazing.

I’ve had lots of life experience so I felt I might be able to empathise with families who were having some difficulties.

But then my son moved back home for a time, and Covid happened, and I was worrying about my mum being ok during the pandemic, so it just wasn’t the right time for me.

I eventually took the step to find out more last Christmas.

I was on a night out with an old school friend who is now a social worker and I told her I was thinking about fostering and she said she thought I’d be good at it. I couldn’t wait any longer, I just knew it was something I wanted to do, and I filled in the online form over Christmas.

I’m now on my way to becoming a foster carer and I’m really looking forward to it. My son is 24 and my daughter is 27 and they’re both supportive of my decision.

In the years since my children have left home, I’ve realised that no matter where life takes them, I will always be their mum.

I have a little grandson now and the other day we were having a picnic in the garden. I thought about how much I’m looking forward to doing those really simple things with any children who might come to live with me, such as having a picnic or taking them to the park.

I want to be able to give other children the chance to make those sort of happy childhood memories too.

Dawn and Keith - foster carers

Dawn’s story

Dawn, from Whelley, and her husband Keith, have been foster carers for just under 3 years.

Here, Dawn shares their story about what inspired them to become foster carers, how they’ve found fostering with Wigan Council, and the many joys and challenges of life as foster carers.

Dawn says...

When our two children left home and it was just us again, we started talking about possibly becoming foster carers.

Me and Keith had courted when we were very young, and we got married and had kids quite quickly so when they left home, we felt a little bit bored sometimes to be honest, and we knew we could give more children a good home.

We were having a meal one night and we decided we’d look into it.

I don’t know why, but even after that conversation we didn’t do anything about it straight away.

Then a little while later we talked about it again, and this time, we just knew it was the right time to do it. We both knew we weren’t getting any younger and we should go for it.

I literally contacted the first agency that came up on Google. I don’t know why we didn’t think of contacting the council at the time.

We started our fostering journey with an agency, which was fine, but after a while we decided to switch to Wigan Council.

Working with the council has been brilliant, everyone we’ve worked with there has been brilliant and we’ve always had the help and support we’ve needed.

The main advantage for me is that everything is local.

I’m not a very confident driver and when we fostered through the agency we were once asked to look after a baby who originally came from the Wirral. That meant I had to drive over there whenever there was a family visit and before I went, I’d always worry about the drive. It was stopping me from enjoying the experience.

I feel at ease with Wigan, and it’s been working well for us.We’ve fostered lots of different children over the past three years. We have looked after a young mum to be and supported her through her pregnancy. We’ve had a newborn baby, two teenagers, and we’re currently taking care of a group of 3 brothers and sisters.

We weren’t originally set up to take 3 children at once but when we got the call to ask if we could take them, we knew we would as we did not want them to be separated from each other.

They were coming that same day, so we rushed out to Tesco’s and bought loads of cereal and some pyjamas.

We phoned the local bed shop and explained the situation and asked if they could quickly get us a set of bunk beds and luckily they did it straight away for us!

They keep us busy but they are great company. Every child we’ve looked after has been different.

I think one of the skills you need as a foster carer is to be able to build routines for the children. All children benefit from a positive routine.

At the beginning there were times when we didn’t think we could do it as there are sometimes challenges but we’re both really glad that we have.

There have been lots of ‘best bits’ over the past few years. I love seeing how the children grow and get more confident. I also love it when some of the children we’ve fostered in the past, now young adults, come back to visit. It makes you wonder where the time has gone but it’s great to see them doing well.

We feel that fostering is helping to keep us young. Children help give you energy and we’ve also met so many new people as children help get you out and about and meeting other people again.

I’ve even reconnected with two old friends, who I’d lost touch with, as they’re both fostering now, so that’s been really nice.

To anyone who’s thinking about fostering I would say, just do it, make that phone call.

It isn’t always easy, but we honestly wish we’d done it years ago.

We’ve never looked back.

Liz's story

Foster carers Liz and Gary, from Aspull, have looked after two boys (now 16 and 17) for the past six years.

Liz has kindly shared some of her experiences of life as a foster carer, including why the couple decided to foster, the challenges and joys of raising teenage boys, and some words of advice to anyone who might be thinking about fostering.

Liz says...

Becoming foster carers was something we’d always thought about.

We’d had our boys (biological sons) when we were relatively young and had been through some hard times when we were younger so when we got back on our feet the idea of being foster carers kept coming back to us.

Both of our lads said that we should do it, they thought we’d be good at it, so that encouraged us and eventually we decided that we would put ourselves forward for the training but that we’d take our time and see what happened, we wouldn’t force ourselves to do anything that didn’t feel right.

We were always going to take younger children for our first placement, but the two brothers, aged 10 and 11, were suggested, and we agreed.

We’ve never really looked back. I don’t know if it was because we’d already raised boys, or if we just fell so, so, lucky with them, but they fitted into our family immediately and settled with us very quickly, within 6 months.

I realised that there were lots of benefits to looking after older children; their personalities were more established, they could talk to you and tell you what they needed, they were more independent.

Of course there have been challenges. When they first arrived with us, it was like they hated each other, they didn’t get along at all. But they’d spent so much time together and had been through a lot, so that was understandable. We made sure they had their own bedrooms to give them some space from each other. They went to different high schools. We got them into a routine and spent time individually with them.

There have been so many highlights over the past 6 years. It’s the small things, like watching them learn new stuff, seeing them excited about going on a trip away with school and just watching them gradually become happy young men.

If you’re thinking about fostering, I would say don’t rule out fostering teenagers. It has been so rewarding. You don’t need special skills, you just need a family home, time to give to them, patience, a routine, and food. Teenage boys do tend to eat a lot of food.

They are 16 and 17 now and I’m so proud of them both. One of them is in 6th form college and has a job in a restaurant. The younger one has just secured a successful apprenticeship with a big North-West firm, after a very challenging interview process, competing against 4,000 other applicants.

Our (biological) sons have also played a big part. They helped us to make the decision to foster originally, they were at home when the boys first came to live with us and were nothing but supportive and they are both always on hand now, even though they no longer live with us and have children of their own. One of our sons has even gone on to work with young people.

When I look back, we went into fostering as a family, and that was what the boys really needed, a strong family network.

Deb's story

Fiona and Shaun's story

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