“If you are interested in fostering and you have got the time, the love and the energy and the space in your home, give it a go.”
Those are the words of one relatively new foster carer from County Durham who has chosen to share her experiences during Foster Care Fortnight in the hope of inspiring others to give a child a loving home.
Sue Webb and her husband Andrew began their fostering journey after some significant changes in their circumstances. The couple’s daughter left home to go to university and when Sue’s mum became unwell, they took early retirement to look after her. When she sadly died, the “empty nesters” found themselves with a lot more free time.
The Webbs, who are in their 50s, had not planned for their daughter to be an only child and approached Durham County Council’s fostering service in July of last year.
“We had a lot of time and a lot of love to give” remembers Sue who had first contemplated fostering with Andrew when their daughter started school but “it never seemed to be the perfect time.”
They underwent the necessary training and were ultimately accepted to foster, much to their delight. The Webbs were allocated a fostering social worker and during home visits learned about the support they would be offered in County Durham, as well as beginning to get an idea of the range of children needing a family.
Sue recalled: “We did not mind where they came from if they needed the care, we were happy to give it.”
The Webbs were introduced to a nine-year-old girl in need of a home. They had been nervous but need not have been. “Sometimes you just get a feeling – my husband and I both had that feeling. My husband and I both looked at each other, we both knew.”
The girl moved in with the family at the end of February. “She has fitted in so well and gets on really well with our daughter. Same type of interests. She is just a lovely polite intelligent loving little girl. We just took to her straight away.
“We just give her time and our attention, that is what she needs – and love.”
Of course, as with any young person growing up, there are occasional teething problems. But that is where the council’s fostering service comes in – providing a social worker to support Sue, Andrew and their daughter and another to support their foster child. Should the couple need additional support they can access a therapeutic service, specialist nurses and education professionals.
“It would not be natural it if was all sugar coated, there is always going to be some bumps along the way. We have got the support, we have got the professionals behind us. There is support for you every step of the way.
“She will be with us until she makes her own way in the world.”
Asked what her message would be to anyone thinking about fostering themselves, Sue said: “If you are interested in fostering and you have got the time, the love and the energy and the space in your home, give it a go.
“At least enquire and talk to the professionals and see what they say. I do not regret it for one second.”
Durham County Council is supporting Foster Care Fortnight which runs from 10 to 23 May, organised by fostering charity, The Fostering Network.
The council urgently needs more foster carers, with over 900 children currently in care of some kind in County Durham. On average a child in care will move homes ten times before their 18th birthday and the council is looking for families, couples and individuals who can providing stable and loving homes.
Helen Milliken, the council’s fostering manager, said: “It’s wonderful to hear how much Sue and Andrew are enjoying fostering. It’s really important that as a council, we listen to and support our foster carers. I can tell each time I speak to Sue, how much the little girl they are caring for is enriching their lives.
“There are a lot of myths about fostering including that you have to be ‘young’ but as the Webbs have shown in their 50s, age is no barrier. Relationship status and sexuality don’t matter either, we would love to hear from a wide range of people who would like to know more about fostering.
“It is important to note this is not a journey you take on your own – we will be here to offer training and support once a child is with you. We are really happy to answer questions anyone has about fostering – please get in touch if you are interested.”
To enquire about fostering with Durham County Council phone 03000 269 400 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.