Foster carers play an important role working with children and young people to make sure they get the care and support they need. From attending school and health appointments to taking part in extra curricular activities, foster carers look after the children in their care on a day-to-day basis.
Fostering is different from adoption because the local authority in which the child lives remains responsible for them as their 'corporate parent'. In many cases, it is also important to maintain links with the child's birth family through regular 'contact' meetings, which foster carers will help facilitate.
Foster care provides a home for a child in need, but being a foster carer involves so much more.
Married couple, Sue (49) and Sam Whittle from Leigh adopted Anthony eight years ago when he was just 19 months old.
Their adoption journey began fourteen years ago, when they decided to become foster carers.
Just one year after tying the knot, Sue and Sam realised they had more than enough love to go round and embarked on a career in foster care. Since 2001, they’ve fostered an astonishing 73 children.
Sue’s lived on the same street in Leigh her whole life. While she knew another foster carer who lived close by it had never occurred to her that she might follow the same path.
“I saw a little boy playing in the street one day. His clothes were scruffy and he looked as though he wasn’t being looked after very well. Seeing that little boy made me feel helpless and sad. For the first time in my life it dawned on me that behind closed doors you don’t know what’s going on. I just presumed that every family was like mine - happy, safe and warm. But that day I found out that that it isn’t always the case and I wanted to do something.”
Crash! Three-year-old Charlie, Sue’s current foster son has tipped his box of Lego all over the living room floor. With a cheeky smile he tells us how his older brother, Gary, four, who’s at nursery, hadn’t cleared the Lego away yesterday. He goes on to tell us that they had ice-cream, and he had his favourite – chocolate.
As Charlie gets stuck into building his Lego tower, we hear more about Sue’s adoption journey.
“Charlie and Gary came to me two and half years ago. Charlie was just a baby and Gary was a toddler. When they came to me they were very different to the way they are today. They had a lot of emotional and behavioural issues. One of the hardest things to deal with was their relationship with food. Before they were put into care they’d often go for days without food. Soon after we took them in we started to find food stashed all over the house. They’d save food from dinner and steal it from the cupboards. I caught Gary trying to give Charlie a pork pie one day - he thought he was looking after him.”
Today, with a bit of love and affection, Charlie and Garry have put their eating habits behind them and are two very happy and healthy boys, who love ice-cream!
Before the cheeky brothers arrived, one of Sue and Sam’s first placements was a little boy. His natural grandparents, who had already adopted the little boy’s sister decided to adopt him too and the couple said their goodbyes. A few years later, the mother fell pregnant again and gave birth to Anthony. Sue and Sam took Anthony in when he was just five days old. Unfortunately because of his grandparents’ age and the fact that they had already adopted his two older siblings, they didn’t have the space to be able to take in another grandchild.
“It broke my heart to know that Anthony might not have the chance to grow up with his brother and sister. It was then that I knew I had to adopt him,” says Sue.
A year later and it was official, Sue and Sam’s adoption application was successful and they were now the proud Mummy and Daddy of Anthony.
Anthony’s now nine years old. He sees his brother and sister and grandparents at least once a month.
Sue and Sam have continued to foster. She said: “I would encourage people to considering fostering; it’s a really worthwhile job. Being able to see the improvement of the children is wonderful. Of course you fall in love with them and it can be difficult letting them go, but knowing that they’re going to a loving family makes it much easier.”