New mum Kerry Thacker is living the dream, she has a baby, a loving partner, a home and two loving parents… the foster carers who turned her life around.
Kerry, from Dunmow, is now 28 but she was 13 when she was taken into care because her mother, who had mental-health issues, could not look after both her and her younger brother.
As the New Year begins, she is urging people to give serious thought to becoming foster carers, so that more young people can be helped in the way she was.
Kerry says: “So many children need foster carers like I did, so please come forward and help change a young person’s life.”
She adds: “Being fostered changed my life. I thank my foster parents from the bottom of my heart because I know if I hadn’t lived with them my life would have been so different.”
In 2020, up to 500 children in Essex are expected to come into care. Essex County Council needs more foster carers to help transform these children’s lives.
They are needed on a full and part-time basis for either short or long-term placements. They can be single, married, from a same-sex family or retired and Essex County Council offers high-quality bespoke local training.
An active network of support groups, meanwhile, provides opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers. Many go on to make long-term friendships.
Kerry’s life before and after she was fostered
Before she was taken into care it was Kerry who played mum to her 10-year-old brother. “My mum had had a few suicide attempts and she just couldn’t cope.”
She admits that while it was “awful” to be parted from him, it was the right move. She says she was deliberately split from her brother and placed with different foster carers so that she could be mothered herself.
“I didn’t really have a childhood with my own mum, but I did with my foster parents. They were just so loving, and they treated me no different from their own daughter. She was only five when I moved in and we became the best of friends.”
Kerry thrived at school; gained 13 GCSEs; went on to study psychology at the University of East Anglia and later met her life partner, Stuart Tate, 29.
Now they’ve bought a home together and have a son, Finley, who was born in August last year.
Her foster carers wish to remain anonymous to safeguard the identity of the remaining foster children in their care, but to Kerry, they are simply mum and dad and now nanny and grandad to Finley. They live just five minutes away.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet member for Children and Families, said: “Fostering children and giving them a loving home dramatically changes young lives for the better.
“New homes are desperately needed on an ongoing basis so that children can have the childhood they deserve.
“All our foster carers are very well supported through local training and their own social workers and the fees paid to them enable foster carers to follow their passion and make a real difference to a young person’s life.”
Transform a child’s life, be the parent they need. See the County Council’s moving fostering video on how to become a foster carer on its website.
There you can also see 20 inspiring fostering stories. Find out about fostering, call 0800 801 530, or visit Essexadoptionandfostering.co.uk/fostering/events to find out about attending an event to learn more.
Events are being staged on Saturdays in Harlow: 18 January; Chelmsford: 25 January and 14 March; Colchester: 1 February and Dovercourt: 15 February.