CARER Michelle Galati wanted to share the joy of watching her foster daughter Emma transform into a happy and successful adult.

Her experience comes as part of a series of stories highlighting the rewards of undertaking foster care as Swindon Borough Council tries to deal with a shortage of carers.

Michelle has done plenty to alleviate the crisis herself by fostering 26 children with the council for over a period of seven years. As her own children were growing up, she decided she wanted to give something back and help other children facing difficult circumstances. Within two weeks of being approved by the fostering panel she was caring for her first young charges.

She said: “It’s unfortunate that these children come into care, but they need love and attention and I just felt that I could give that.”

One of those children was Emma, who was with her for five years until last July.

Reflecting on her time living with Michelle, Emma said: “Fostering has made a big difference to me. I didn’t think I would ever have a bright future but she’s helped me get through it and pushed me forward towards my goals.”

The council says 350 children and teenagers in Emma’s situation needed a foster home in Swindon last year, but because of the shortage of homes some were forced to relocate to areas with more carers.

Michelle spoke fondly of the transformation she saw in her Emma as she grew up: “When she first came to me she was a shy teenage girl with her school skirt and little ankle socks on. And now, she’s gone through college, got a job she really likes and is moving into a house with her partner.

“It’s just nice to see Emma blossom into who she is now. It’s a pleasure to see her thrive and get on as well as she is.

“We’ve had such a good relationship and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed fostering. We’ve had some really good laughs and lots of really nice moments. We still call and text each other all the time, I’m like her second mum.”

In November last year Michelle joined forces with her Nationwide colleagues to make and fill 140 bags with useful items to help children settle into new foster homes.

Many more determined carers like Michelle are needed to combat the shortage.