Former Kirklees foster children's stories.
Long-term foster care was something that helped 23 year-old nurse Kayleigh Crossley, turn her life around. After a traumatic start to life she was eventually placed into long-term foster care at the age of eight, and she spent the remainder of her childhood with Dewsbury foster carer, Brenda Whitworth, and her late husband, Ian.
Now living in Dewsbury with civil partner Beth, Kayleigh looks back on her time in foster care and what it meant to her:
“Before I went to live with Ian and Brenda, I lived with my mum and two siblings. From as far back as I can remember violence, neglect and alcohol misuse were an all too familiar part of my home life. This meant that I’d become a mother figure to my two siblings, often taking charge of the cooking and cleaning, but for us this was normal family life as we’d never really known any different.
“There were times when we’d be placed into foster care for short periods whilst things settled down at home, but eventually things became so volatile that it simply wasn’t safe for us to return. It was from this point that my short-term placement at Ian and Brenda’s would develop into a long-term arrangement and unbeknown to me this would be the place that I would call my home for the next nine years.
“At the time, I didn’t really have a full understanding of what was going on and I went through a real mix of emotions. Even though Brenda and Ian did everything they could to make me feel a part of their family, I struggled to adjust. This was partly because I’d lost my role as “mother” – something that had become totally normal for me – and having someone else looking after me felt very alien.
“Initially I felt scared and confused at what was happening, so my first instinct was to rebel. This manifested itself in regular outbursts of anger and I’d sometimes run away. Although there were days when I’d appreciate what Brenda and Ian were doing to help me, after all the chaos and disruption in my life, pushing the boundaries was the only way I could cope.
“But Brenda and Ian were amazing. No matter what I was going through or how destructive my behaviour became they showed me unconditional love, kindness and understanding, and were always there for me. They also encouraged me to talk about what I’d experienced to help me come to terms with my past, something which must have taken real strength on their part as they had to listen to some pretty awful stuff. And importantly, they actually listened to me. This was vital in helping me to gradually overcome my issues and eventually settle down. Without their guidance and perseverance it would have undoubtedly taken me longer to break this pattern of behaviour.
“Despite my issues I’d always had an overwhelming desire to do something worthwhile with my life – perhaps by becoming a teacher, nurse or police officer - anything where I could give something back. I clung to this and my ultimate goal was to go and study. It was Brenda and Ian, along with my partner, Beth, who encouraged me to study as a nurse.
“Ian sadly passed away in 2010 but I will always regard him as a father figure and Brenda will always remain a big part of my life. I’ve also kept in touch with some members of my birth family as well as all my foster siblings, and I am best friends with one of Brenda and Ian’s daughters, who is like a sister to me.
“Ultimately, I believe that only I had the power to change my life for the better, but being in long-term foster care taught me the life skills and gave me the grounding I needed in order to do so. My experiences have also taught me to appreciate everything I have – especially the simple things that one might take for granted – such as having a roof over my head, food on the table and people around me who care. This is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”