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Proud foster parents who transformed the life of a boy “He just needed someone to believe in him.”

Debbie Barker, foster carer

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Braintree couple Debbie and Gary Barker had already raised their two daughters but decided their parenting days were far from over.

So, six years ago they turned to fostering and because it has been such a positive experience, they are urging potential foster carers to come forward.

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.

The couple mainly took on teenagers, Gary was the main carer for the first five years while Debbie continued to work. One of them was a 12-year-old boy who had a 40% attendance record at school.

Under their care his life was transformed. Now he’s left school, is at college doing business studies and has just passed his driving test.

“He just needed someone to believe in him,” says proud Debbie, a former nursery school teacher.

“It took lots of patience and very small steps but we got there. We worked hard with the school and had a fantastic social worker and it made all the difference.”

The couple’s patience was rewarded: “By year 11, he had passed all his GCSEs and it was fantastic watching him go to his school prom. He’s now applying to university to study business and has big goals.

“It’s been such a rewarding experience, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend fostering to anyone who was interested,” she said.

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 to find out about attending an event to learn more.