Some young people who are in the care system do have challenging behaviour due to their life experiences so far, and this is often where fostering can have the biggest effect in transforming lives, this is Allan's story.
Allan, now 23, was placed into foster care at the age of 18 months along with his older brother and sister, but due to circumstances they were not able to be placed into a foster home together. Subsequently, Allan grew up not knowing he had older siblings in care and a younger brother who stayed in the birth family home.
At the age of about 10, Allan was told that he had siblings and was able to start building relationships with his older brother and sister but although he is close to his older brother now, Allan found his situation quite hard to deal with at the time.
Allan spent his early years growing up in a number of foster families but placements had broken down because he felt like he was treated differently and found it hard to settle. He would often show his frustration through bad behaviour and end up getting into trouble. It was decided that Allan would be best suited to living in a children's home and before a place could be arranged, he was placed in a short-term foster home with Edna, a move that would change the course of his life.
"My behaviour at the time wasn't good" says Allan, "I felt angry a lot of the time and didn't feel like I fitted in. But when I went to live with Edna we just clicked and I started to feel like I was part of a family. Their family was respectable and they showed me how to be respected and I didn't feel left out anymore. After I'd been with Edna for a bit she said that she wanted me to stay with her family so I didn't have to go into a children's home which made me feel good. I was encouraged to do sports and was helped with school work, I didn't go to proper school but I got good results in Maths, English IT and Science. I wanted to go into the Army and did a training course and joined up and I have done really well in my Army career. I really believe that I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Edna and my foster family. Sometimes foster placements don't always work out but I am really grateful to Edna for being there for me when it felt like no one else was. Edna is still fostering now and I am a regular visitor with my own little girl."
Edna has fostered hundreds of children in over 20 years of fostering and is continuing to transform many lives. She took time to listen to Allan and understand what he needed, which was love and attention, and did not judge him by his behaviour. Edna and her family showed Allan how to respect people by respecting him and making him feel part of a family.
Allan is hoping to work with the Fostering Service to share his experiences with new foster carers to help them understand the needs and feelings of young people in care.
What our foster carers say...
Christine Hodgson says that fostering is better than winning the lottery as she gets so much pleasure out of it and her daughter hopes to follow in her footsteps in the future.
"My friend fostered and I always thought about it but didn't think that everyday people like me could foster. I thought you had to be someone special and live in a big house. This isn't true because all you need is a big heart, not a big house, and want to care for these kids who need you.
I was one of 7 children and had a really happy childhood and felt that every child has the right to feel happy and secure. 18 years ago I became a foster carer and I think it is the best job in the world, for me there is no other feeling like it. We had 4 children of our own when I first started fostering, the twins were 8 at the time and I had two older children 12 and 13. The kids have been really good and like having other children around and my husband Leonard loves fostering too, he enjoys taking the kids out places and making their time with us really fun.
Some of my friends say to me that they would love to do it but wouldn't want to give them back and although it is hard to see them go because you and your own children get so attached, if everyone said that there would be no one to look after them in the first place.
Fostering has really rubbed off in my family, my daughter Angela has grown up with fostering, she was 12 when I first started and she knows what a great feeling it is and has seen how it helps young children. Angela is a great mam, she has 4 children of her own and she has been talking to the fostering team about fostering when her children are a bit older. It's good to talk to the fostering team and get all the information so you can answer all the questions you have and then think about it more seriously."
Fostering had always been at the back of Joan's mind when a seed was planted at just 9 years old.
"I was watching TV with my mam and dad," recalls Joan "It was a 'Find me a Family' programme and there were children who needed looking after. I asked my mam if she would ring up and take care of a little disabled boy. She said she would love to but she had enough on her plate with me and my 3 brother and sisters. It was from then that I thought I would like to look after children who needed a home when I grew up.
Fostering or adoption had always been in my thoughts but I didn't really know how to go about it and thought that you had to have a big posh house and be someone really special to do it. Then quite a few years ago my friend's foster daughter used to spend a lot of time at my house and wanted to come and live with me so I was in touch with the fostering service to sort things out for her as a relative/friend carer. I was a single parent at the time, my eldest had left home, my middle son was about to fly the nest and my youngest was 6. I went through the assessment process and then panel and was approved as a foster carer. I met my second husband Ralph and after a bit I decided that I would like to foster other children, Ralph has 3 children from a previous marriage, so he loves kids and is really good with them so we decided to go for it.
We foster as mainstream carers and do short-term placements and really love it. I try to make it as happy as possible for the children who come to us, we love to sing and dance and don't make a fuss about some of the little things because these children can sometimes have been through a lot. My youngest son has grown up with fostering and he's been amazing with all the foster kids, he accepts it and enjoys spending time with them, he's been brilliant.
It's funny to think that I thought I couldn't do it because I didn't have any special skills, because all children need is a safe home and someone to care for them and you get training to help you to develop your own skills. I have met a lot of other carers who are now good friends and we help each other out. It's hard sometimes when the children have to leave because you get attached to them. I'll often have a little cry and then get over it because they will be going on to an adoptive family or back to their birth parents and I know we have made their time with us happy and that is a really special feeling, then I look forward to my next placement".
"Hi I'm Debra from Marsden and I want you to think about fostering.. then do it"
"We have been foster carers for over a year now and haven't looked back. We had thought about fostering for a long time but wanted to wait until the time was right for our own family before we took the next step of finding out more information.
Mark grew up with friends who were living in residential care and my previous job involved supporting children within the school environment. Our own experiences have given us an insight into the needs of vulnerable children in South Tyneside.
You need to decide as a family if fostering is something you all want to do as it affects everyone who lives in the household. Our own children were happy for us to do it so we made the call to South Tyneside Council after seeing an article in the local paper.
A lady from the fostering team came out to see us and talked us through the process and answered some questions we had. We felt at ease and under no pressure at all to make any quick decisions and the advice we got really helped us to make up our minds.
Once we had decided that fostering was definitely something we wanted to do we went on the training sessions ran by the council. The sessions were really in depth and covered all of the things we could expect to face as foster carers and also what to expect from the assessment process which happens after the training.
The training and assessment took quite a long time because the fostering service need to make sure you are right for fostering and fully prepared for it. We were then approved by the fostering panel and it felt great that we could now offer a safe family home to children who needed care.
We now foster two siblings and it is such a good feeling to be able to offer them a safe home where they can be together and feel loved and cared for.
At first it was quite hard as the children often find it hard to adjust to new surroundings but over time they get more settled and you feel better knowing you are making such a difference to their lives.
Fostering definitely has its ups and downs and we have had loads of support from our own families as well as the fostering service who are there 24/7 if you need any help or advice.
Mark runs his own decorating business but has been really involved from day one and although I continued to work at first, I decided to give up my job working in a school to make sure I could be there for the family full-time.
The new payment of £75 a week for carers on top of the allowances for the children has helped but I don't think anyone fosters for the money. I am hoping to foster as a full-time career in the future so I can provide stability for my family and those young people who need care.
Some people have asked us if we have any regrets about becoming foster carers but I think that is a strange question because although it has been challenging, fostering has been a very positive experience for us, there is no feeling like it when you see the children become happy and confident because they are part of a loving family.
My advice to anyone who is thinking about fostering is don't think about it, do something by ringing the fostering team for more information, there is no commitment until you decide that fostering is something you want to go for. We haven't looked back."
"Hi, I'm Dawn from South Shields, I used to foster part-time but now fostering is my career"
"My friend suggested fostering to me but I was single so I didn't think I'd be eligible, but I found out that all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds can foster. I'd been fostering part-time for ten years until I decided to foster as a career.
As a respite foster carer, I cared for children for occasional weekends or for a few weeks a year. Helping a child turn their life around is a fantastic feeling and now I am able to build a stable future for my family and the young person who I care for!"
"Hi, I'm Edna from South Shields and I'm a full-time foster carer"
"I've been fostering for 20 years and I couldn't imagine life without it. Many of our former foster children have children of their own now and are still regular visitors to our home.
I believe that all children deserve to reach their full potential so over the years we've had a pretty full house!"
Interested in fostering part-time, full-time or as a career? Call today for your free CD and information pack on 0191 423 8500