Sally and Connor are in their mid-40s and have a nine-year-old son called Joel. They began fostering six years ago when they wanted to extend their family while Joel was still a young boy.

‘It took a long time to have Joel and we really wanted him to have a companion’, explains Sally. ‘We had thought about adoption but decided that we would love to be able to help more children through foster care.’

They had thought about it for a couple of years and when Joel was two, they stumbled across Brighter Futures for Children’s fostering team hosting a stand in their local ASDA. ‘We had thought we wouldn’t be able to do it because we only had a two-bed house and obviously had Joel, but they said that we’d be able to foster babies up to the age of two. Joel was a good age now and so we decided to go for it.’

‘The application process was long!’ laughs Connor, ‘I don’t think we quite realised what we had let ourselves into as we filled in some forms, and then some more forms came so there’s a lot of questions, a lot of going over all aspects of your life. It was quite tedious but I completely get why the social workers have to do it. It has to be long. They have to kind of test you and see how committed you are which is good.’

Sally and Connor have looked after four children in their six years as foster carers so far. So how does their son, now nine, find it?

‘We had one boy who stayed for 14 months when they were both quite young. Joel loves him, he goes around calling him ‘my brother!’ which is nice. He has moved on now but Joel still loves to see him’, says Sally.

Sally and Connor used to primarily look after young children but more recently they’ve realised that, with Joel being older, it could work better if they had a child closer to Joel in age. They now have an 11-year-old boy planning to move in with their family in a month’s time. ‘We’ve sat down and explained to Joel that if we have a child older than him, that he might not be able to do all the same things like go and see a 12-rated film at the cinema, or have a mobile phone as he’s going to secondary school’ explains Connor.

‘Firstly he wasn’t sure and didn’t really react but more recently he’s been asking questions, and saying he’s lonely and he’s excited to meet him now,’ says Sally, ‘He’s coming round for tea before he joins us, and the boys are going to see Star Wars over the school holidays too.’

These meet-ups before the new boy joins the family will make him and the whole family feel at ease. It’s nice to hear that Sally and Connor get creative with encouraging a new child to feel at home. What else do they do? Connor says: ‘Well, we’ll ask their social worker what kind of music they like so that we can have it playing on in the background sometimes. Or we’ll find out what their favourite football team is so that we can follow the scores and drop it into conversation. It’s about the little things you can do to make a child feel at home.’

Sally is a full-time foster carer while Connor still works. How do they find the balance and the trials and tribulations of fostering? ‘It’s hard work! Especially the first time you foster, there are a lot of meetings and paperwork, but you get used to it and it’s so incredibly rewarding.

‘You have got to have thick skin, and you’ve got to give a lot of love and care in order to meet the children’s needs. One of the highlights of fostering is when a child that you’ve been looking after goes on to a really happy life.

‘One of the boys we had looked after was adopted after staying with us for a year, it was such a nervous day at court for all of us, but he was so happy, and so were the adoptive parents. They had met each other before and everyone just knew it was the right thing,’ says Sally, eyes glistening.