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Care leaver becomes an advisor to Five Rivers foster carers

Care-experienced Mindy explains what inspired her to become a volunteer advisor to foster carers with Five Rivers.

Mindy is one of six children, and the only child of her parents to enter the foster care system. After falling in with the wrong crowd, troubling behaviour led Mindy to miss five years of schooling and live with several different members of her family from the tender age of eight, moving home nine times in just four years.


A problem with aggression caused Mindy to be expelled from nine schools and she struggled with an alcohol and drug addiction. In 2013, when Mindy was 14 years old, her mother Charlotte* made the decision to place Mindy in care, believing it was the last remaining option to give her the chance to turn her life around. Following the decision, Mindy experienced three months of upheaval as she moved between numerous residential units and short-term placements, unable to settle.


It wasn’t until Five Rivers Child Care in Exeter became involved later that year, that Mindy was placed with the foster family she credits with transforming her life. Reflecting on her mother’s decision, Mindy said:

“My mum and I talk openly about her placing me in care. She tells me she never expected I would thank her for it, but now I see it was what I needed to become a better person. It was what I needed at that time.”

Mindy was placed with foster carers Mike and Julie, a couple living in rural Exmoor. They rose to the challenge to provide a safe haven for Mindy, without the distractions that kept leading her into trouble. Mindy continues:

“I could not have been placed with a more perfect foster family. They convinced me that they were prepared to see my worst so that I could become my best. I learnt a lot about myself with their loving guidance. The experience changed my life, and I check in with them and their eldest son as often as I can.’’

Mindy moved out to live independently at age 16. She began working voluntarily with Five Rivers Child Care, a social enterprise, to help the organisation train potential foster carers. She now attends the training courses to provide the viewpoint of a foster child. She has also invested in producing reports, blogs and videos that help eliminate the negative stigmas that surround social care.


Commenting on her transition from foster child to care advisor, Mindy said:

“I will never stop offering my help to Five Rivers Child Care as I feel I owe them so much for finally understanding what I really needed as a 14-year-old and finding me a foster family I could finally settle with. The work I have been involved in has been an extremely therapeutic process.  It is because of social workers and foster carers that I have been able to create an amazing relationship with my biological family, and also have a second family I am forever grateful for. I may go into fostering myself at some stage in the future. But until then, I will help prepare the best candidates for their journey as foster carers. I would encourage anyone who is compassionate, understanding and flexible to explore fostering as a career. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it really does change lives.”

Martin Leitch, Head of Fostering Operations at Five Rivers Child Care, commented on Mindy’s fostering journey: “ As a former foster child herself, Mindy has first-hand experience of the struggles and difficulties they are facing and the empathy she can provide to carers and foster children alike is invaluable.”

People from all walks of life can become foster carers as long as they are over 21 years of age, including single people, cohabiting couples, same-sex couples and people living in rented accommodation are all eligible, 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 Child Care on 0345 266 0272 *Figures from Fostering Network to be found at

*names changed to protect the identity of individuals

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