A common misconception is that foster kids are so troubled they’re going to come into your house and smash everything up.
But since my wife of three years Gina and I got into fostering, we have found it nothing but rewarding.
We were watching the local news and there was a report on Syrian refugee children in Manchester needing somewhere to stay.
The next day we headed to our local fostering centre in Stockport to see if we could help.
The staff explained in our area there were 250 children at any one time who need a home.
That shocked us.
Not just refugees but local children too.
We knew straight away we were going to apply to become carers.
We didn’t know much about fostering, but Gina has always wanted to do it.
A lot of her friends were in foster care growing up, and she’s such a kind, generous person.
I wanted to help too, I was just worried they may not consider us because my career as a musician means I’m not at home much.
The application process was intense but speedy.
They looked into our full backgrounds, starting right from childhood.
Clare’s Law (brought in after Clare Wood was murdered by her ex-boyfriend
in 2009, who had a history of violence, unbeknownst to her), was part of it.
It enables the council to get in touch with any applicant’s ex-partners, just to make sure no one has been abusive.
We were proud that was so crucial.
Then we were interviewed in depth about our own relationship, received First Aid training and were taught how to help children of all ages.
Even our dog Steve was assessed.
The team pinched him and gave him a little punch to see how he’d react.
He’s so well behaved they said he was the best dog they’d ever tested!
After four months, we were approved.
We’re lucky we have spare rooms at home, so we started getting everything ready and kid-friendly.
We have one room for babies and another good for any age that’s yellow and green.
Our role is to assess the child and provide them with whatever they need.
We’ve now had 12 stay with us, ranging from newborns up to age 16, and we only do short-term placements because I’m away so much.
We’re able to offer anything from a one-night stay up to a month, after which they may find somewhere more permanent.
If it’s a girl staying, my wife takes over as she understands girls more than me.
But one of our first kids was a nine-year-old boy and I took charge.
He was very nervous and went straight upstairs to plug in his PlayStation.
I’d bought the new FIFA game especially for when we have boys, so I went downstairs, plugged in mine, put on my headset and we started playing together from different rooms.
The conversation started on the headsets and he soon settled in. Our dog helps too.
Kids love animals and he’s been a hit with them all.
Some of the more nervous children find him especially comforting.
Music is, of course, a huge part of my life, and instruments are everywhere in our house.
The toddlers love it when I play Old MacDonald on the guitar, it makes me so happy when they’re dancing along.
We always have music on too, and sometimes when we’re in the car with the kids and we have the windows open, music blaring, all singing along, I think, ‘They might remember this.’
The first time we did that was when I realised how much it meant to me.
Some of the children are at school, so we’ve gone from being a newly married couple with no kids to doing the school run.
Babies were an eye-opener too.
We had two stay with us for three weeks.
The sleepless nights were a shock.
We took a baby each, both did the nappy changing and the night feeds and got stuck in.
We’re having fertility treatment ourselves, so it’s all good practice.
I was worried how we might cope with a tantrum, but we’ve never had any trouble.
And all of the kids have happily eaten our food, even the ones who said they wouldn’t touch veg!
Giving them nutrients is part of looking after them.
Of course there are a few strops about going to bed.
With the younger ones we’ve had to tuck them in, sit outside, wait for them to come out and tuck them back in bed.
But the teenagers are fine going up to their rooms at 10pm.
We don’t allow phones in the bedroom, so we charge them in the kitchen and they can get them in the morning.
We have a regime!
I was a terrible teen and felt like no one understood me, so I can relate if the children aren’t feeling themselves.
Kids just want to feel like their opinions matter and they’re being listened to, soif someone’s having an off day I say, ‘Right let’s go and build a fire or find something we can smash up.’
It usually works.
I’m also good at delivering the facts if anyone oversteps the mark.
I can be strict, but it’s important to have mutual respect.
Because I am in the public eye, some of the older kids know who I am.
We take kids to my gigs as much as we can, as I think seeing live music is a great opportunity.
We don’t spoil them, but we’ve taken some to London for the day or BMXing and try to let them have good experiences.
Short-term care is always last minute, so we make sure we’re ready.
Often I’ll be leaving the house to go on tour when I’ll get a call.
Normally we can do it, we try our best.
Fostering means we don’t have as much time for us as a couple, but it has been a nice activity to do together.
When it’s time to say goodbye, it’s heartbreaking when the kids say they wish they could stay, but we make sure they have somewhere to go before they leave.
One of the most rewarding moments for me was with a toddler who was non-verbal.
I was giving him a bath and counting to 10 as we poured water out of jugs.
Then when I got to seven, he finished it off all by himself.
I was so happy, it was incredible.
If everyone helped where they could, so many children would have better opportunities.
It is so much easier than you think.
They’re just kids, so don’t be afraid.
You could change someone’s life.
Fostering- The facts
Over 65,000 children live with almost 55,000 foster families across the UK.
Around 30,000 more children come into care over the course of a year, with similar numbers leaving the care system to return home, move in with another family member, live with new adoptive families, or move on to adult life.
The Fostering Network estimates that services need to recruit a further 7,220 foster families in the next 12 months to help everyone in need.
If you’re interested in fostering, visit HERE to find out about your local area.
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