Shropshire carer Eileen shares her love of fostering… 150 children on!
With national Foster Care Fortnight (8-23 May 2017) in full swing, one local carer has added her voice to the call for more individuals and couples to come forward and provide short-term and long-term homes to children from the county.
After caring for over 150 children of all ages, Ludlow-based foster carer Eileen still looks forward to the next child coming through her front door – 30 years after the very first one.
She is also adding her voice to the call by Shropshire Council to follow in her own footsteps and provide a home for local children every year who come into care.
“Looking back it seemed like an obvious thing to do. After having our own children and having worked in a residential nursery, I knew that not enough people were coming forward to give children homes – which meant that many were going into residential care.
“I worked with another member of staff who had herself been in that situation when she was young, and I knew from her what a positive difference it could make to a child to be fostered.
“So I thought: Why not me?”
At the time, Eileen’s eldest daughter was 10.
“That was obviously a consideration. How would my own children react to another child coming into their home?
“I needn’t have worried. They were fine about it and I could see that they were gaining from it too. They were interacting with the foster children and realising they were not any different to them. In fact, without the support of all of my family, I just couldn’t have done it!”
That was nearly 30 years ago and – 150 children later – Eileen has no regrets.
Eileen has been short-term fostering for all those years – that can mean anything from a few days to a few months as the child’s parents resolve a situation in their own lives or the child moves to a long-term placement.
She also provides placements for young mothers and their babies – helping them adapt to the sometimes daunting task of having your first child when you may not have a lot of family support locally.
“I have talked to lots of prospective foster carers over the years, talking them through what’s involved. One of the main questions asked is how difficult is it to move a child on.
“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel a tinge of sadness when I move the child on. But this is always outweighed by knowing you have helped a child when they most needed it in their life.
“I would say to anyone thinking of fostering – ‘just do it’. Finding out what’s involved does not mean making any commitment, and you’re given plenty of time and advice to decide whether it’s right for you.
“The process for fostering has changed over the years, but we have always felt supported by our team of social workers at Shropshire and other foster carers.
“I’ve fostered children of all ages. And you often hear about the backgrounds of some children and think ‘I can’t do this’. But, sometimes the more challenging children can be the most rewarding.
“We had one mother and child placement from a young teen and we were really worried when we heard about her background. But now, six years on, she has kept her own child and has made a great mum. She has her own home and a good life – and it’s nice to feel you have been part of this.
“If I had the chance I’d do it all again. We are a foster family – and what’s really lovely is that my grandchildren now just accept that their grandparents have other children to live with them and that is something that their family does.
“Don’t think you can’t foster – think that you can.”
To find out what’s involved in fostering a local child, or to register your interest, call 0800 783 8798 or visit our website at shropshire.gov.uk/fostering.
BBC Radio Shropshire’s James Bond spoke with Eileen yesterday. To listen to the interview click here.