WITH five children between them, Stratton couple Matt and Sam Roberts might be forgiven for deciding that enough was enough.
But they opted to become foster carers for Community Foster Care. “We felt that if we could manage with five children, having one more wouldn’t make much difference, especially as my two aren’t here all the time,” said Matt, a land surveyor, based in Swindon. “We both like a busy home and love having the kids and their friends around. When it’s quiet, we’re a bit lost. It’s rarely just us.”
Sam is a trained social worker and has experienced at first hand the benefits a good foster home can bring. “I’ve met some really good foster carers through my job and have seen the difference they can make to a child’s life, so starting to foster wasn’t a sudden decision for me. I just had to wait until my youngest son was old enough to manage the idea of having a new brother or sister,” she said. Before going ahead, Matt and Sam had a chat to all of their children. “They were fine about it, and they all get on really well,” said Sam.
After contacting the not-for-profit agency Community Foster Care, it took six months to become registered. “The assessment process was long and thorough. It was also quite an eye-opener,” said Matt. “Our assessor was really good. You learn a lot about yourself and discover you’ve got skills you didn’t know you had. It brought home why we wanted to become foster carers.”
One year on, the experience of fostering has been more than a learning curve. “The best thing has been how well our children have coped. “They have been a credit to themselves – totally amazing,” said Sam. “There haven’t really been any low points. Yes, there are occasional difficult patches, but nothing that wouldn’t happen in any home with any child.”
Sam and Matt’s advice to others who might be considering fostering is not to worry. “Being a good parent is the hardest job in the world – you’re a teacher, carer, cook, cleaner – and being a foster carer is exactly the same,” said Sam. “I’ve seen children from really neglected backgrounds start flying when they are in the right place with the right family to support them.”
Matt added: “Becoming a foster carer does have an impact on your life and no one should go into it half-heartedly because children’s lives are affected by everything you do. But I’m so glad we have done it. “We’ve had a few tricky times, but seeing the change in a young person and their huge progress makes it really worth it.”
They are grateful for the support received from Community Foster Care. “We have a supervising social worker always at the end of the phone who has been worth his weight in gold,” said Sam. “They supported us from the beginning. The training has been really good. The social events are welcome too – we’ve met other carers who understand what fostering really means because they’re in the same boat.”
She is reluctant to admit that she and Matt have done anything special.
“We’ve just got a lovely family that we’re really proud of and we thought we could offer a part of it to someone else. If a child has good outcomes by being here, so much the better. That’s what it’s all about.”
Foster Care Fortnight runs from today to May 24. For more information, visit www.community fostercare.co.uk.