We’re Alex and Mary and we’ve been fostering for 15 years, although Mary could claim more than 50 as her own parents were also foster carers, starting when she was just a few years old!

We are currently looking after a child with a life-limiting condition. We fostered more than 20 children during our first ten years as carers, mainly as emergency and short-term carers. Then we were asked whether we were prepared to foster Callum, thanks to our experience looking after babies with health conditions. Our own birth children were growing up so it seemed like the right time. We’re really happy with how this has turned out.

Callum’s condition results in severe developmental delay and epilepsy along with a few other things. It’s fair to say that it has been very challenging at times, not least emotionally, and it’s developed our view that fostering is a whole family venture, not just about the nominated carers. Small achievements are enjoyed and celebrated by us all. 

Talking about it being a whole family venture, our daughter, Eliza, was nine years old when we first started fostering. She’s now 25 and says:

‘When our family started fostering, I was already familiar with it as our grandparents had been foster carers for many years and I was so excited that we were going to do the same! Although I already had two younger sisters I always looked forward to another sibling (or two!) joining our family. We all had so much fun together. Saying goodbye at the end of a placement was always hard but I absolutely loved having them live with us for a while and I felt like we were able to give them all the love they needed during that time. 

‘Our current long-term placement is quite different to our previous fostering experiences as we are now looking after a little boy who has complex special needs. His medical needs mean that it has been very challenging for us as a family at times but overall I’m so glad that we are able to provide him with all the care and support that he needs and I love having him as part of our family.

‘Although I have been living at home on and off since I was 19, I still love being a foster sibling. It continues to give me so many unique experiences and I feel so proud to have grown up as part of a foster care family.’

Callum has a good medical team around him from all disciplines, most of whom we are able to approach directly. As well as the support we get from Brighter Futures for Children and the fostering team, we also get support from a care agency who provide a few nights of care each week, a local children’s hospice at home charity and also respite care for us all through the regional children’s hospice, which is a vital support.

We also still have some contact with Callum’s family. His birth dad and grandad have said that Callum is part of two families. We are also still in touch with some of the of children that we fostered who went on to be adopted, and it has been a joy to see them developing and growing up, as is the case with our own birth children.

We often say that fostering is both rewarding and challenging all at the same time, but one way of providing love and care in the community. You never know what new skills you might have to develop on the way!