For David and Marie Bullock, from Frinton-on-Sea, the lockdown really has been a time of transformation for both of them.
David was made redundant earlier this year, but before he could embark on his search for new employment the UK went onto lockdown.
Despite initial concerns, David and Marie aged 56 and 50 respectively, quickly decided to just accept and embrace the situation. Marie had already provided respite foster care for a year, so the couple decided it was a perfect time to increase their involvement.
David and Marie, who have been married for 9 years, looked after several children during the Covid-19 pandemic as short term or emergency placements.
“Upon reflection, being made redundant has had a positive impact as I’ve been able to afford these children my time and I’m more relaxed than ever.
I think many of us took for granted going to a restaurant or taking the children swimming until lockdown happened. It has made us realise just how important these seemingly little things were.
The same can be said for spending time with family. Many of the young people who come into our care have not been afforded this before, so just spending time with them can make a big difference.
All they really want is to have safety and a structured environment. And maybe a little fun!”
The Bullocks, who started fostering in April 2019, have since cared for 8 children, including siblings. Along with their own children, boys aged 23 and 21, 11 and 5 years old, the couple are currently caring for a 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, who are siblings. The couple’s 11-year-old boy has autism and they are keen to encourage others in similar circumstances to not let that be a barrier to looking after more children.
“If anyone is concerned that they can’t foster because they already have children in the home, then I would definitely share our positive experience. Having other children in the home often serves as a good icebreaker because a new child tends to respond more quickly to another child. They help them to see that we are kind people, and this makes them feel more comfortable in asking for something.
We just have to take one step at a time though and be led by them when they first arrive. We let them decide if they want to see their bedroom, eat dinner, or have a bath. We don’t rush them into anything”.
As lockdown eases, Essex County Council are stepping up their calls for more foster carers, like David and Marie, to help transform the lives of young people across the county.
Foster carers can be single, married, from a same-sex family or retired. There is also an active network of support groups providing opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers with many going on to make long-term friendships. Essex County Council offers high-quality bespoke local training to all foster carers and provides ongoing support.
Cllr Louise McKinlay, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Essex County Council, said: “Our foster carers help build better, brighter futures for hundreds of children across Essex every year. We desperately need more people, like David and Marie, to foster on a full and part-time basis for either short or long-term placements”.
Find out more by visiting www.essexadoptionandfostering.co.uk/fostering. The phone line is also still open: 0800 801 530. We have online information events where you can ask any questions and speak with existing foster carers to find out more here