Andrew and Jane's story
It's not every day that you come across people like Cleckheaton couple, Jane and Andrew Bottomley. The devoted parents of three and long-time foster carers have dedicated over 15 years to providing a loving home to some of the most vulnerable children in Kirklees and to actively endorsing foster caring.
Since 2000, 45 year-old Jane and her husband Andrew, 44, have provided long and short-term foster care via Kirklees Council for more than 50 children of varying ages and abilities, including some with complex behavioural issues. Together, they have also worked tirelessly to help existing and prospective foster carers via their support group, the Kirklees Fostering Network (KFN), by holding regular events and speaking at seminars across the country.
Add to this their family-run business, three foster children, plus two former foster children who have remained in the family home, and one could be forgiven for imagining a hectic household. But despite their busy schedules and a full house, foster mum, Jane describes theirs as a "calm and happy home". She explains:
"Many of the children we've looked after have come to us from troubled backgrounds, and have been in desperate need of some normality. Whether a child comes to us for one week, one month or one year, it's important to make that child feel settled and secure. Only then can they begin to feel more grounded and open up to you, and I've been able to see first-hand the positive impact this has had.
"When meeting prospective foster carers I often tell them that the foster caring community is a bit like one big family, so you never feel like you are on your own. We all support one another by meeting regularly and by arranging family events during the school holidays. In bringing together foster families, we can also share ideas and strive to be the best at what we do."
When he isn't busy running the family's farm-machinery business, foster dad, Andrew, spends much of his time taking the family on excursions in the camper van and stock car racing at the weekends. Described by Jane as a "natural performer", he also regularly DJs at fundraising events for the KFN and has recently established a support group for male foster carers. Andrew describes how the family has adapted over the years to meet the ever-changing needs of the children in their care. He says:
"Our own children were just 7 and 10 when we began fostering and we were ourselves a young couple. But we've always liked to keep busy and are very family-focussed, so foster caring appealed to that side of our personalities.
"From the outset we were always much like any other family, be it going on holiday, making sure homework gets done, or helping out with household chores. Our three daughters were also very hands-on with our foster children, which is something that has shaped their lives into adulthood, as they have all chosen various careers within the care profession.
"Foster caring has definitely been – and continues to be - a learning process for us all. Every child brings a new set of challenges and although there are often no quick fixes, there is a lot of support for foster families in Kirklees. It's also humbling to see the benefits that foster caring can bring and how you can play a part in helping to shape and nurture a person's future."