A 76 year-old Devon grandmother who fostered 85 children

At age 50,  Devon-based Karen* was working as a dinner lady. Her caring nature did not go unnoticed by parents who suggested she’d make a good foster carer. Twenty five years after completing her training,  Karen is still going strong as a Five Rivers Foster carer for George*, 9, and Grace*, 10, and is a registered carer for Jacob*, 22. Following in her footsteps, Karen’s daughter Lily*, 52, is also a registered foster carer.

Karen says

“At first I didn’t think I would be able to become a foster carer because I was a single parent, but after some research I realised that actually that wasn’t the case at all. ”

Karen has cared for 25 long-term foster children and around 60 short-term placements including those in respite and mother and baby care. She has forged lifelong relationships with a lot of the children, now adults, who she once cared for, keeping in touch with many on a regular basis.

Karen continued:

“It can be very difficult saying goodbye to a foster child, particularly one you’ve cared for and watched grow for many years. It’s like one of your own children leaving home and moving away. But the most rewarding thing about foster caring is seeing the positive, good person they’ve become when they walk out the door, when quite often they arrive introverted and distressed.

“I’ve watched my grandchildren grow up around foster children and I believe being around other children is really beneficial for every child as they grow up.”

Five Rivers are calling for more people to consider a career as a foster carer to help tackle a nationwide shortage which includes a current shortfall of 480 carers across the South West of England and more than 7,000** throughout the UK.

Karen offered advice to anyone looking to become a foster carer, saying:

“Do plenty of research into the career and, if you can, speak to other foster carers and ask lots of questions. It’s a big responsibility, but so rewarding in equal measures.

“We’ve always had full support from Five Rivers. If there is ever an issue, we can pick up the phone and one of the team is on hand to speak to us or come and visit in person. It’s great knowing that we’ve got such a strong support system in place at all times.”

Five Rivers offer a range of training schemes and qualifications, helping their foster carers develop and enhance their ability to support young people. As a result, Karen and Lily both undergo regular training and first aid sessions to ensure their skills are up to date.

People from all walks of life can become foster carers as long as they are over 21 years of age, including single people, co-habiting couples, same sex couples and people living in rented accommodation.  The only requirement is a spare room for each foster child.

A career in foster care offers many benefits including competitive rates of pay and flexible working. For more information about fostering contact Five Rivers on 01722 622492 or visit www.five-rivers.org

*Please note, names have been changed to protect the identity of the foster children and carers

**Figures from Fostering Network to be found at www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/advice-information/all-about-fostering/recruitment-targets

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