Foster family changing lives in Worcester
As the West Midlands faces a critical shortage of 770 foster families in the run up to Christmas, a couple from Worcester have shared their story of more than a decade as foster carers. Julia and her husband, Barry, are approaching their 12th year as foster carers.
In total, they have looked after five young people, as well as several short-term respite care placements. The couple have been fostering with Five Rivers Child Care since 2006.
Married for almost 30 years, the couple first considered fostering in 1993 when their own children were aged two and seven. At that time, they came close to fostering the children of a close family member. Although in the end this didn’t happen, Julia found she had awakened a desire to foster that she couldn’t shake.
In 2006, once the couple’s own children were older and living more independently, the couple felt it was the right time to think about fostering once again. Julia got in touch with Five Rivers, and she and Barry started the application process and extensive training programme. When they qualified as foster carers, Julia left her part-time job as an admin assistant for a high-end retailer to take on temporary shift work as a delivery driver, providing the flexibility she needed should she need to stop work in the event of taking on a foster child.
Shortly afterwards, Julia and Barry welcomed Harry*, 8, on a temporary placement. Julia said: “I could have cried, bless him. He was an adorable, troubled boy who just needed some love, security, and support.” Harry’s initial temporary placement became more long-term, and he lived with Julia and Barry until he was 16.
Julia and Barry currently foster three youngsters. Thomas*, a five year old who has been through four successive foster placements and the difficulty of a failed adoption, has been with them since 2012 and has built a strong family bond with his foster carers.
The couple also foster James*, 18, who came to them in 2015 just before Christmas. James’ parents had passed away, and he had no known blood relatives. It was a challenging time for him, but Thomas* was delighted to have a new companion in the house. They enjoy playing computer games together, and think of each other as brothers. James* is now settled at home, and is with the family on a ‘staying put’ support programme, which means Julia and Barry will continue to play an encouraging role as he works to become a qualified plumber.
Georgie*, aged 12, is the newest addition to the family, and has been in foster care with Julia and Barry for since May this year.
“We’ve become a really close knit family; it’s been fantastic to see the kids’ relationships blossom. We know when to take time for ourselves, and ask for support. My daughter, who works in social care, has been amazing and offers us respite care when we need a break. The Five Rivers team are also great at being there to help when we need it, and their training programmes have really enhanced our ability to care for our placements.”
Nicci Willock, director of fostering services at Five Rivers, said: “Julia and Barry’s story is a truly heart-warming account of the goodness that foster families can bring to the lives of young people in need. They are shining examples of foster carers who have done an incredible amount to help children across Worcester and the West Midlands adjust to family life and achieve their full potential.”
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 are all eligible, they 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 0345 266 0272, email [email protected]
*All names have been changed to protect the identity of the children in care.