From care leaver to fostering social worker
Steph spent a childhood in care following the loss of both parents. Now a social worker, she is joining the call for more people to step forward to become foster carers.
Steph was the youngest of six siblings, born to older parents. But when she was just three years old, her mum passed away from cancer. Tragedy struck the family six months later when her father also succumbed to the disease. By this time, three of Steph’s siblings were old enough to look after themselves but not yet suitable guardians for their three younger brothers and sisters.
Steph’s closest siblings were sent to a children’s home while Steph was rehomed with a temporary foster family while an adoption process was started by another family. This was unsuccessful and after some time Steph joined her two other siblings at the children’s home.
On remembering her move to the children’s home, Steph said:
“I’m not quite sure how long I lived in the children’s home but I really did enjoy my time there. The staff were strict but loving and ensured we were cared for and had everything we needed. I have vivid memories of the playroom and the treat boxes that were kept in the kitchen – we were allowed something from our tin at 6 pm.”
Eventually, the three siblings were placed with foster parents in Bristol that already had two children but enough spare rooms to cater for their growing family. Steph enjoyed three happy years with the family, forging strong relationships with her new siblings and establishing a close bond with her foster parents.
When the foster parents moved away to Devon, Steph made the decision to remain in Bristol and enrol at a college where she studied to become a nursery nurse. As a ‘care leaver’ Steph lodged with a family and received a grant from the Prince’s Trust on a weekly basis to pay her rent. On gaining her NNEB qualification Steph worked full time as a nanny and later as a childminder.
Steph is now mum to three adult children, two girls and a boy. Her eldest daughter is a senior nurse while her other daughter is due to qualify as a nurse this summer; her son works in construction.
“I feel like my life turned out better as a result of being in foster care. They had a steady and secure income, which was something our biological parents didn’t have, and they taught me how important great foster parents really are. They dedicated their time and energy to other people’s children, and that’s an amazing thing.”
Steph’s childhood experiences inspired her to change her career and pursue social work so she could help vulnerable youngsters just like her and her siblings. Steph embarked on an Access to Social Work course before completing a three-year degree in social work, which she completed in 2009. Now Steph is a supervising social worker at Five Rivers Child Care where she works with foster carers and those going through the vigorous foster care assessment process.
She goes on to say:
“Foster carers care for some of our country’s most vulnerable children. The work I do with Five Rivers Child Care allows me to work with carers and foster children alike to ensure children and young people are placed in the best possible environment.
Foster Care Fortnight (May 14 – 27) is an important reminder that there is a huge shortage of foster carers across the UK, with a current shortfall of 7,180 across the country*. We hope Steph’s story inspires people to consider foster care as a potential career option and recognise the important contribution foster carers make to the lives of vulnerable young people.
People from all walks of life can become foster carers as long as they are over 21 years of age, including single people, co-habiting couples, same sex couples and people living in rented accommodation are all eligible, the only requirement is a spare room for each foster child.
A career in foster care offers many benefits including competitive rates of pay and flexible working. For more information about fostering contact Five Rivers Child Care on 0345 266 0272 or visit www.five-rivers.org