Francine and Stephen's story

Gloucestershire couple Francine and Stephen Burns have been foster carers with Barnardo’s for nearly ten years.

They provide a stable and loving home for a teenage boy, and enjoy the experience so much that he’s been invited to continue living with them after he turns 18. Francine, aged 63, and Stephen, aged 64, fostered many other children in the years before they joined Barnardo’s and still keep in touch with some of them today.

Francine said: “We used to live in a small village where my husband had a workshop with lots of tools, so the local children would often come round for their broken bikes and fishing rods to be fixed. We always enjoyed their company and decided that fostering would be an opportunity to ‘work from home’ while giving something back to society.

“At first we provided respite foster care where we would look after children for short periods, but we didn’t feel supported by the agency involved so we turned to Barnardo’s who appointed a wonderful social worker who understood our needs.”

Fostering with Barnardo's

The couple's first placement with Barnardo’s was a young boy. He only stayed for a week, as an emergency placement, but it was such a positive experience that he returned soon afterwards and has stayed with the Burns family ever since. 

Francine said: “We hit it off immediately and were delighted when he returned. He always behaved impeccably. All he wanted was some stability in his life, to feel settled. He’s made enormous progress since then and today he’s no different to any other teenager. He’s got a wide circle of friends, he enjoys sports, he’s learning to drive and he’s starting an apprenticeship. We’re so proud.

“It’s like he’s our own son. We’re introduced as his mum and dad, and he refers to our relatives as his aunts, uncles and cousins. He’s not treated differently to anyone else – because he’s part of the family. We joke that we’re looking after him at the moment but one day maybe he’ll be looking after us!”

What it takes to be a foster carer

Francine added: “The two biggest things you need to become a foster carer are patience and love – if you can provide that, then everything else will fall into place. You also need to understand that what a child may have been through in the past may affect their behaviour today, you need good communication skills, and you need the courage to ask for help if you need it - the support from Barnardo’s was incredible.”

She concluded: “Some of the young people still keep in touch with us many years later. They never forget what we did for them. We were wandering around a show one day when we were recognised by a young man who ran up to throw his arms around us and say ‘hello’.

“We feel very lucky. Our only regret is that we wish we’d done it earlier!”