Kieth and Janet's story
Long-time foster carers, Keith and Janet, have added their voice to Kirklees' plea in the hope that more people will come forward. In the 18 years since they began fostering, the Leeds-based couple have looked after more than 30 of society's most vulnerable children, including those with disabilities, severe behavioural difficulties, and long-term medical conditions.
With four children of their own, the couple are no strangers to busy family life. But far from deterring them, it was their love of children, along with an overwhelming desire to help those in desperate need of a stable and loving home, which led them into fostering. 52 year-old Janet, who also works part-time as a nurse, explains:
"Both Keith and I have medical backgrounds and fostering seemed like an ideal way of combining the enjoyment we get from helping others with our love of having a big family."
"For us fostering quickly became part of our normal, everyday life and our own children were never phased by it. They always enjoyed having other children in the house, often helping out in any way they could. I believe this taught them some valuable life skills into adulthood, and both of my daughters have now expressed an interest in fostering and adoption in the future."
"There have of course been times when fostering has presented some real challenges but I can honestly say it is also the most enjoyable, rewarding job I've ever done. Many people assume that one of the biggest challenges with fostering, is that you can become too attached to a child, making it difficult when they go on to be adopted or reunited with their birth families. This is something I feel often holds prospective foster carers back, but for us, this has never really been an issue."
"In fact when it comes to a child moving on we actually feel happy for them. This is because we've been able to play a vital role, however big or small, in making a positive difference to that child's life at a time when they need it most. This might involve seeing them through an operation, being there to lend emotional support, or simply introducing them to everyday activities, such as going on holiday or just sitting down together for a family meal."
"One case in particular that really brought this home to us was a little girl we'd fostered at the age of two who we came back into contact with at the age of six. To our surprise not only did she remember who we were, she also remembered how we'd looked after and played with her when she was a toddler. This had quite a big impact on us as we realised that we'd helped form some of her earliest childhood memories and that we'd somehow forever be a part of her life. For this girl, remembering the love we'd shown her, even at such a young age, was like piecing together parts of a jigsaw, and it meant a lot to us.
"Focussing on positive outcomes like these, allows us to step back emotionally and keep things in perspective so that we can be ready to help the next child who needs us."
As well as being a full-time foster carer, Janet's husband Keith, also helps to support other carers via local support group, the Kirklees Fostering Network (KFN) and visits schools to raise awareness about fostering.
"Although many children come to us with some harrowing stories and are faced with their own mix of emotions, each child also brings something positive with them and enriches our lives in some way."
"We often get praised for doing a great job, but seeing what some of the children have had to overcome and how far they can go in the right environment, we believe all credit is due to them. Being there to provide the tools for them in order to do so is ultimately what makes our job as foster carers worthwhile."