A fulfilling career
But with the number of children entering the care system rapidly increasing, more foster carers are desperately needed.
Patricia and Graham are working with the Hampshire County Council by volunteering at roadshows or events across Hampshire to try and encourage more people to consider fostering.
Patricia, 57, says: ‘I go along to roadshows…and tell people who might be interested about my experiences and how fulfilling it is to be a foster carer.’
Patricia and Graham decided to become foster carers when they were told they couldn’t have their own children.
The right route to take
‘Immediately we thought of adoption but the option for fostering came up and it seemed the right route to take’, says Patricia.
Patricia says it was the best decision she made. ‘We have helped so many children…it is amazing when you look back and realise we have looked after and helped that many children.
You can do what suits you and your family
She adds: ‘When you go through the process you can say what you want to do and what suits the needs of your family.
Patricia and Graham have fostered children from six years old to 17 years old and some stayed with them for many years. One child joined them when he was aged six and lived with them for 12 years.
Patricia and Graham are currently caring for three teenage boys: a 17-year-old who has been with them for seven years, a 16-year-old who has lived with them for three years and a 15-year-old who has been with them for four years.
The teenagers are encouraged to make their own choices and be independent. They decide what they wear, eat, what activities they do and how they spend their pocket money.
The main thing is to listen
‘The main thing, as foster carers, is that we have the time to listen to the children when they are feeling sad and to not make any judgements’ says Patricia.
Graham and Patricia work closely with the boys’ schools to maintain stability and ensure they are happy there.
‘Quite often with children coming into care, through no fault of their own, they have missed out on school so for us, it is important that we work with their schools so they can get the best possible education.
Patricia and Graham ensure the boys develop a variety of skills whilst they are living with them. They cook Sunday lunch for the family which gets them working together as a team and gaining vital life skills. They get to shop for the food, work out the recipes and cook it.
‘It is great to see them all working together and at the end produce a dinner they can be proud of,’ she says.
They go on day trips and holidays abroad as well as visiting cafes and restaurants to help the younger children with their social skills.
Make a child feel valued and special
Patricia and Graham say they will continue to foster in the future.
‘Graham and I really enjoy what we do…we enjoy helping the children that come to us through fostering and it doesn’t take much to make a child feel valued and special.
‘We have had so many children who come to the door and their eyes are dead…watching them slowly grow and learning to trust adults is so fulfilling. They start talking and smiling and laughing. It is just wonderful to see. That is what’s so great about being a foster carer.
Patricia and Graham are urging more people to come forward and become a foster carer. With more and more children coming into care needing a safe, loving, supportive home and not enough foster carers to meet the demand-they are keen to share their experiences and tell people hoe fulfilling it is to foster. As Patricia says ‘Graham and I have been able to help so many children but more need help.’