Helen, 62, from Rugby has provided specialist foster care for the past eight years. Aged up to 18 years old, the young people Helen supports are often some of the most vulnerable - on bail or remand, or affected by childhood sexual exploitation.
Helen says, “I spent quite a few years of my own childhood in care after my parents split up, and even ended up in a remand home because it was the only space available. I then went to a national children’s home.”
“That experience always stayed with me, so when my own children grew up I looked into the option of becoming a foster carer.”
“I liked the idea of shorter-term placements, which is where I was introduced to Barnardo’s specialist foster care service.”
“Barnardo’s sees our own health and wellbeing as just as important as that of the young person, which is really reassuring.”
“The charity also provides every bit of background information on the young person so that you know what to expect, and there are no surprises. It gives you much more confidence in how to support them because you know what’s gone on in their lives. It helps you to help them.”
“There’s also a great support network with other foster carers, and regular training and supervision.
Helen helps her foster children apply for jobs, enrol for college courses and acts as an advocate to ensure their voices are heard during meetings to decide their future. She also supports them during court appearances and liaises with local authorities and other agencies on their behalf.
Helen says, “Young people sometimes feel society has given up on them, so they give up on themselves.”
“It’s amazing that so many people think children only go into care because they’re bad people, but you should never be quick to judge.”
“We tell the young people that doing a bad thing doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. Sometimes they're just a good person who made a mistake, whether that’s getting involved with drugs or hanging around with the wrong crowd.”
“Sometimes they just need someone to believe in them – perhaps they’ve never had that before.”
Helen concluded, “People think of specialist foster care as challenging, but I just see it as rewarding. I’ve never regretted it. Yes, some of the young people are angry, but their anger is aimed at their situation, not at us.”
“It’s amazing to see the difference you can make in such a short space of time. We can help them to completely transform their lives. They’ve gone on to university, established their own businesses and started families. They just needed the right support at the right time. It makes you feel very, very proud of them”.