Kathy and Derek's story
2016 marked a major milestone for Foster Carers Kathy and Derek. The couple celebrated 40 years as Foster Carers welcoming nearly 150 children into their home throughout their fostering career, and with no intentions to stop the couple’s home is still busy today.
It was back in 1976 when Kathy first spotted a leaflet about fostering at her local shops in Cantril Farm, now known as Stockbridge Village. With a young family of their own at the time, Derek and Kathy gave the idea some serious thought and decided that they would love to welcome children that could benefit from a loving family into their home.
Their own children embraced being a part of a fostering family thoroughly, and whilst they were young the couple agreed that they wouldn’t foster a child who was older than their eldest or younger than their youngest child. This worked really well for the couple and the children they fostered had the same rules and boundaries as the couples own children. As a family they welcomed every child with open arms.
The couple moved in the 1980’s to a large 7 bedroom property which they purchased especially to foster more children. They wanted to keep brothers and sisters together and began to foster sibling groups, something which the two of them are especially proud of. Kathy said ‘I believe if you can keep siblings together you can keep their bond. It was lovely having groups of brothers and sisters together.’
Derek said “we have always worked well as a team, which is something that has helped us create such a loving home for the children. Don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot of tough days and times when we’ve found it very challenging, but we have always felt extremely supported by our Social Worker from Knowsleys Fostering Team. There have been occasions when we’ve needed our Social Worker daily and times when we have been able to sort things out as a family. What’s great about the Knowsley Fostering Team is that we know they are there whenever you need help or advice no matter how big or small, they know us really well and they know the children who they place with us will be best suited to us and our home which is really important.”
Kathy sums up being a Foster Carer with a saying she picked up from her own mother, ‘we all make gravy different’. She explains; ‘children who need to be fostered come into a new home and things are different for them, we do things another way to what they are used to, and this can be scary for them. We find that by speaking to the child and reassuring them that we are on their side and want to help them that they feel more relaxed and settle in better.’
Many of the children the couple have fostered throughout the 40 years have chosen to live close by and still visit the couple regularly. Kathy said ‘our home is always busy, but the children who come to live here love that. Some of the children have even asked to come back and live here and we have worked with social services and supported lodgings so that they can. We love it this way, we hate it when it’s quiet – we just love the children being here.’ Their daughter also feels the same and is now a Foster Carer too with a busy home of her own.
Kathy and Derek’s advice to anyone who is thinking about becoming a Foster Carer is to speak to the team at Knowsley Council, ‘we have always been very well supported and never felt that we have been left on our own. We love what we do, seeing how we have made a difference in a child’s life is the best feeling in the world. We are immensely proud of what we do and still have a lot of love left to give.’