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South West couple commit to long-term foster relationship

Foster carers Tim and Emma, began fostering when they couldn’t have children of their own

Emma and Tim first considered fostering in their 30’s when they found out they were unable to have a child naturally. They were so disappointed when their local authority told them they were unsuitable for fostering they turned their attention to their careers as a successful estate agent and self-employed driving instructor, travelling the world on fabulous holidays.

As the years passed, Emma couldn’t shake her desire to become a foster carer, feeling adamant that they could offer a stable family environment for a child in need.

Emma said: “I think when we first approached the council about fostering they felt we were too young and as we didn’t have children of our own, we were inexperienced. But, when we went back in 2013 we were told we’d make good candidates.”

While enduring a lengthy wait for their fostering assessment with the local authority, Tim and Emma came across independent fostering agency Five Rivers which has offices in Salisbury and Exeter, and within six months they were approved to foster.

In January 2016, Emma and Tim become foster parents to six-year-old Harry* who, as the third of four siblings, had come to live with them after a family breakdown.

Emma continues: “When Harry* first came to us he was wild, he’d hadn’t had much in the way of parental guidance his whole life and he and his two brothers and sister were often used to being aggressive with each other and didn’t have any sense of good boundaries. As such, we’ve spent a lot of time reinforcing boundaries and teaching him how to play with other children and socialise as well as showing him a lot of love and care. You wouldn’t recognise him today as the child he was then.

“We managed to keep Harry* in the school he was already in and they have noticed huge changes in both his behaviour and academic achievements since he’s been living with us. As a family we have quite a few pets – cats, a dog, chickens and a tortoise – and Harry* loves helping me take care of them, it has taught him about caring and looking after others, something he’s never experienced before.”

Harry* has settled well into life and enjoys playing football, taking swimming lessons and going on family holidays, he’s also learning to ride a bike for the first time and can’t wait until he is old enough to join the Marine Cadets group that Tim helps run, following his years of service as a Royal Marine Commando.

Prior to going into fostering, Tim was serving as a Royal Marine and chose to re-train as a driving instructor and his work offers flexibility to help with childcare for Harry* around Emma’s part-time work as a shepherd, helping local farmers during lambing season.

Emma said: “Our lives have transformed since welcoming Harry* into the family. Before, work was our priority whereas now family time is our focus. I’m a resilient and tenacious person and fostering certainly has its challenges but when you see how much of a difference you are making to a child’s life it is so rewarding.

“Harry* now has a huge extended family, with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who treat him just like one of their own and he is slowly getting used to the idea that we aren’t going to disappear out of his life overnight.

“The level of support we’ve had from Five Rivers since we started fostering with them has been fantastic and we are the carers we are today because of them. The training is so thorough, we’ve been on around 50 courses with them and it means that on tough days we’re well equipped to handle difficult behaviours and situations.”

Emma and Tim favour long-term foster placements, something Five Rivers supports them with, and are in the process of offering a long-term therapeutic foster placement for Harry* which means he will hopefully stay with them until he is 18.

A career in foster care offers many benefits including competitive rates of pay and flexible working. For more information about fostering visit

*Please note, names have been changed to protect the identity of the foster child/ren

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