Full-time mum Maria Ledgerton has been looking after foster children for seven years since the youngest of her two children was 15.
It was a radio interview about fostering on Dream 100 that sparked her interest. Having adopted her niece, now 25, she already had a positive relationship with social services and knew fostering could be the job for her.
Following the interview, it wasn’t long before Maria, 46, and husband Phil, 55, were caring for their first foster child – an eight-year-old girl who, backed by the Ledgertons, has excelled at school.
“She is an A-star student – always above average in everything she does. I’m so proud of her. We’re lucky to have her – she’s brilliant!” says Maria.
“Foster children can make you feel so proud when they do well. If I can make a difference to one child, then I feel I have done a good job.”
Their success in helping their foster children resulted in the couple winning an award from Essex County Council earlier in the year for “Helping a child to meet their full potential”.
In 2020, up to 500 children in Essex are expected to come into care. Essex County Council needs new foster carers to help change these children’s lives.
Maria said: “I like teenagers. They go through a difficult stage in life and I can relate well to them. It is lovely to be able to help them. It’s important to get on their level to understand them and sympathise with them.”
She confides that their Clacton home is currently overrun with girls – three “lovely” young people all aged 14 and all fostered.
Her message to others is: “You have to be open minded and not have too high expectations sometimes, but if you want to make a difference do it. I have made great friends with other foster carers who really support you.”
Foster carers can be single, married, be part of a same-sex couple or retired and Essex County Council has an active network of support groups. It also provides opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers. Many go on to make long-term friendships.
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 across Essex, visit here for details.