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Sue and Mike give babies and siblings a new start in life

Sue is working towards a qualification in therapeutic parenting.

Five Rivers foster carers Sue and Mike, celebrated their first year in fostering by calling for more people in the local area to consider a career as a foster carer.

Maddie* and Jessica*, are biological sisters and were placed in foster care with Sue and Mike earlier this year.  Maddie has learning difficulties as a result of a chromosome disorder, and Sue and Mike’s care and support over the last few months has helped alleviate Maddie’s stress and agitation.

The couple have worked to calm Maddie’s behaviour by establishing boundaries and offering a sense of routine, as well as introducing both girls to new experiences to help settle them into family life.

Over the summer, Maddie and Jessica enjoyed their first family holiday at the seaside, picnics in their local park, and went trampolining.  The girls have now settled into home life, which is having a positive effect on their time at school.

Sue and Mike also foster Kyla*, aged 1, who was placed with the couple a few days after being born on a ‘parent and child’ scheme which is designed to provide safe and secure placements for parents and children where their parenting skills can be developed. Kyla was initially placed in foster care with her biological mother, however, her mother left Sue and Mike’s home in February of this year, and the couple are currently Kyla’s full time carers.

Sue has worked with children for her entire career. She has worked in various schools and nurseries, taught in further education, and latterly managed children’s nurseries. Sue had always felt she wanted to become a foster carer, and first broached the idea with Mike in 2012. After exploring various options, the couple decided it wasn’t the right time for them, but as time passed Sue continued to feel that fostering was something they needed to pursue.

Sue said: “I have always wanted to foster but never thought it would be a reality. I felt passionate about helping young and vulnerable children, and wanted to be able provide a home where they could feel safe and secure. I spoke with my daughter and she told me that it would be a waste if I didn’t foster – she felt I had so much to offer. However, it was important that Mike was on board too.”

In June 2016, Sue and Mike revisited the idea of becoming foster carers, and through research came across Five Rivers which has offices in Bristol and Salisbury. Their local social worker for the agency, Theresa, advised them of the opportunities available to them, and in November decided they were ready to start the process. Sue and Mike were soon preparing for a weekend introductory course provided by the agency. Sue commented: “The course was a brilliant, intensive introduction to the realities of foster care.”

Sue and Mike, who have four biological children and four grandchildren between them, have embraced the challenges of their new roles, happy in the knowledge that they are making a real difference to the lives of the children in their care.

Now a foster family of five, Maddie and Jessica refer to their foster carers as Grandma and Grandad, and Sue has spoken of the rewards of fostering.

She said: “Watching the children blossom and take steps towards achieving their full potential is truly heart-warming. Maddie in particular has flourished since joining the family.  She was stressed and agitated when she came to us but her transformation in to a calm and happy child is incredible and a blessing to have been part of.”

“Maddie is more content, more affectionate, and is beginning to really enjoy and prosper in school.”

Reflecting on what advice should be offered for people considering fostering and the challenges the role entails, she said: “Foster care demands your time and commitment 24/7.  The local team at Five Rivers are always there for us and very supportive with visits, emails and phone calls. They’re great listeners, and offer sound advice and excellent training.

“There are true rewards in spending time at home with the girls, and seeing them flourish.  I wish I’d taken up fostering years ago.”

Five Rivers offer a range of training schemes and qualifications, helping their foster carers develop and enhancing their ability to support young people.  Sue is working towards a qualification in therapeutic parenting, which provides insight into the emotional and behavioural traits of children. The course worked to develop the insight, understanding, and ability of carers to empathise with children in their care.

Sue and Mike are shining examples of foster carers, and along with others have done an incredible amount to help look after children across the South and West of England. 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.

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 0345 266 0272, email [email protected] or visit www.five-rivers.org

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

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