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Real-life stories

These real-life stories come from foster children who have now left care. In their own words, these care leavers share how their foster parents have given them the love, stability and security they needed to be happy and successful in all aspects of their lives.

"Just because I’m a foster child, doesn’t mean I can’t achieve everything I want"

Bebe shares their experience of being fostered and how their foster carer helped to unlock their true potential.

Bebe’s foster parents saw a spark in her running ability, now she’s competing as an international T44 para-athlete

"I’m Bebe, I’m 17 years-old and I’ve lived with my foster parents Mick and Pauline Davis since I was 11.

I compete in 100m, 200m, long-jump and discus. It feels like I belong here on the track, I love the adrenaline and that feeling when I’m ahead, I always say to myself ‘don’t slow down, just keep running!’. It’s a real community feeling, like another family.

In a year’s time I hope to be Commonwealth Youth Champion, then onto the 2028 Paralympic Games. I’ve got many dreams, I also want to inspire other people with my journey and to show them that anything is possible.”

You always get told as a child, as a foster care child especially, ‘oh you can’t do anything because you’ve had a hard life’, but I think their opinions are irrelevant. It’s more about how I feel about myself and what success looks like for me, when I win that gold medal for example.

Just because I’m a foster child doesn’t mean that I can’t achieve everything that I want. There’s often a stereotype. Mick and Pauline have really encouraged me, they were the first to see my potential as a para-athlete and they’ve been my biggest supporters ever since.

I would say, to anyone thinking of taking on a foster child, that if you think you can make a person’s life better, then why don’t you do it!”

“I don’t see her as my foster carer, she’s like my mum”

Charlotte shares their experience of being fostered and how their foster carer helped to unlock their true potential.

“I’m 17-years-old and I’m currently at college studying BTEC Level 3 Health and Social Care. Being in care has shaped what I want to do growing up, I just want to help other children.

I work at a Family Centre in Essex and we run sessions and groups based on specific needs, how to cope with certain situations, it just makes a difference.

I see children struggling with how to express their feelings, I feel like I’m in a unique place to understand them and to share what I’ve learnt along the way.

In five years’ time I’d like to be a Social Worker, to really make a difference in other people’s lives.”

I don’t see Cara as my foster carer, she’s like my mum. She got me into a good school, encouraged me to get good grades, she wants me to be the best that I can be. I wouldn’t be sat here today if I stayed where I was, Cara has changed everything for me.”

“I’m actually making something of myself which I wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t fostered”

Cody shares their experience of being fostered and how their foster carer helped to unlock their true potential.

“When I was younger I used to watch Junior Bake Off, my foster mum Christine and I would cook dinner together and she has really encouraged me to get stuck in, to learn about different food cultures.

Now I’m 17, I’m studying Level 2 Hospitality at college and I would love to be a Head Chef one day. I’m saving up to open my own restaurant by the time I’m 30.

I was fostered at 13. 13-year-old me wouldn’t be doing anything, I would have just stayed in my room. But now I’m actually making something of myself which I wouldn’t have done if I stayed with my parents.

I’m making myself proud and I’m believing in myself, I can prove people wrong.”

 “You don’t lose anything, but you gain so much”

Tom shares their experience of being fostered and how their foster carer helped to unlock their true potential.

“I never knew what I wanted to do before coming in to care. I didn’t know what to think of myself or what I was capable of.

I’ve now found a real passion for brain behaviour and anatomy, after university I’d like to do a PhD or Postgraduate Medical Degree.

When I first met Sue and Ray I was a bit frightened and angry. They were very positive, big personalities, and they wanted to support me. I see now that it was a good thing and I’ve had a huge amount of experiences in life, I’ve learned more about the world and cultural diversity.

My one message to other children in care would be this – you don’t loose anything, you don’t loose your birth family, but you gain so much.

I would never have got to where I am now or have these aspirations if I hadn’t been fostered by Sue and Ray, they have really helped me to form a judgement on what I want to do with my life. What I think about myself and my capabilities.

My foster family has formed me as a person more than anyone else in my life, and they’ve meant that I can actually have a future, something to look forward to."

"They gave me stability: I started to excel at school and became a straight A student"

Josh Thompson, aged 24 from Basildon, went into foster care when he was 8 years old. In this video, he shares how he excelled at school and developed a successful career after slotting straight into his foster family.

"I was 8 years old when I first went into foster care. I don’t remember a great deal, other than just standing there with my possessions in a black bin bag. It was all rather traumatic, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be with my parents.

Although I was with my older brother it was an extremely daunting experience. So much so, I ran away on the first night.

Initially I had some connection to my old life as I kept in contact with my birth parents who were separated from each other. I figured that they are still your parents, regardless of what they do.

It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable talking about it, but my dad was an alcoholic and my mum had mental health issues. Dad died when I was 11 and my mum when I was 16.

At the age of 13, I was separated from my brother and I moved into the home of Iain and Karen Cameron. I was their first foster child, but I slotted right in with their biological children.

They were there for me through the good times and the bad. And when I had a bad day, I really would have a bad day! I was carrying a lot of baggage.

I tried counselling but it wasn’t quite right for me. I would often just sit and talk with Iain. There was no judgement. He just reassured me, which made things seem better.

They really do feel like my parents. Although I don’t call them "mum" and "dad", that is what they are to me. They did for me what any normal parent does and gave me stability.

Because of this I excelled at school and became a straight A student. I honestly don’t think I would have a successful career today without Iain and Karen.

There is a certain level where you need to drive yourself, but the foundations were built by them.

Essex County Council's Fostering team has also played a big part in giving me the best style of life given my circumstances.

They paid for me to have a private tutor and would often pay for transport to see my mum. It showed me that there is always someone to support you; wanting to make you a better person.

The whole fostering experience has taught me that it doesn’t matter what kind of background a foster child comes from. You can dust yourself off and be put on the right path.

All kids in care need foster parents like Iain and Karen. They deserve it."


"My foster family made me believe that I could achieve"  

Kerry Thatcher, aged 28 and a new mum was placed into foster care when I was 13. In this video, she shares how her foster carers made me feel really welcome as soon as I walked through the door and made her believe that she could achieve. 

Going into foster care was really scary and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was really nervous and really shy, but looking back now I know that was the best thing for me. If I hadn’t have gone into foster care, my life would be completely different.

My foster carers made me feel really welcome as soon as I walked through the door. They were patient and kind and within a week it started to feel like home. I remember sitting at the dining table and I’d never sat down to eat before with people! It was lovely to talk about our days, and that was so different to what I was used to. I just remember thinking wow, this is what family is.

My foster mum in particular worked on my confidence. When I first moved in with them I was so nervous and so anxious I wouldn’t really leave the house. I was too scared to even post a letter, but my foster mum made me believe that I could achieve.  She remembers the shy little girl I was when I first moved in and how, within the space of five years, I was climbing mountains in Ecuador!

I believe if I wasn’t put into foster care I wouldn’t have gone to university and got my degree. I probably wouldn’t own my own home. I think I would have probably been a mum a lot younger. I honestly believe that my life would have been completely different in so many ways.

My foster family was my foster mum and foster dad and they had their own daughter, Grace, who was five years old when I moved in. They also had another boy that was fostered and it really did feel like a family unit. I was with them until I went to university at 18 and I continued to go back to them in the holidays.

Grace was very young when I first moved in but we soon became the best of friends. She loves being auntie to my son: we are sisters and I love her as a sister, we’re very close and still talk every day.  We support each other and my foster parents love how much support I give Grace as a big sister.

To me they are still my parents and they are grandparents to my baby boy. They adore him, and they adore me, and they are my family. As a new mum I’ve learnt from my foster family that I want my baby boy to believe in himself, have the values and traditions that my foster parents showed me, and grow up knowing that he can achieve anything he wants.

I think a good foster parent is someone who is patient, kind, caring and truly wants to help a young person achieve their potential.

I’m really grateful my foster parents decided to foster because they changed my life. If you’re considering becoming a foster carer you should do it because of the rewards and the outcomes you see. You get to watch a young person thrive and achieve their full potential. You get to be the person that changes someone’s life.


“I am where I am today because of the support I received from my foster carers.” Essex foster care leaver Abi, explains how important foster carers are for children in care.

I went into care when I was eight years old and now I am 19 years old, working as a health care worker, looking after adults with learning difficulties, and feeling so good about the life I have and what I have achieved.

Foster care is a vital role for some children who are in need of this and there are so many reasons why children can come into care. Every child deserves a place to call home, adults who can support them, and an opportunity to succeed in their life.

Many foster carers I met changed my life and are still in my life now, even after I have left care. Knowing I have them by my side, that they are still there to offer support after all these years, means the world to me.

These foster carers stepped in to be the parental figures that I needed: they didn’t become my parents, but they took up the role, which was so important to me growing up. They showed me love and support.

It’s these little things that made such a difference. The stability, support, and guidance I received from my foster carers helped me grow and move towards independence. Now when I see some of them for dinner, I walk back in like I never left. They make me feel a part of their family, that I’m one of their children who has just grown up and left.

Placements can be tough - or sometimes they break down completely - but when foster carers support their foster children, and the young person lets their walls come down, then you begin to have a connection and build trust. The foster carers I still know 10 years on, didn’t give up on me, they stuck by me, and I couldn’t ask for more.

Knowing you have someone who you know will support you, and to have a place to call home when you haven’t had a home or a family before, is all you need as a foster child. You need love, stability, and most importantly? you need someone to be in your corner. That’s certainly what I needed, and it helped me to flourish.

I never really knew where I wanted to go with my life, but over the last couple of years, as I’ve got onto my own two feet, I’ve been drawn to health care. I feel I am giving something back to those who need support, like I did, and I feel as a foster care leaver I have more experience to relate to those I support now. I really love my job!

I am where I am today because of the support I received from my foster carers. I am doing well in my life and enjoying life because foster carers didn’t give up on me and they supported me through all my decisions.


“I look back on my time in foster care with a lot of happy memories and I smile.”

Essex foster carer leaver Michael, explains how important foster carers are for children in care.

I was nine years old when I went into care, and I’m now 23, and have been living independently for four years, which I couldn’t have done without the support from my foster carers Derrick and Rachael.

I stayed with foster carers on two short-term placements before going to Derrick and Rachael, but I still picked up certain qualities from each carer I stayed with that have stayed with me until now.

When I was 10, I moved to be with Derrick and Rachael and was with them from the age of 10 to 18. I feel so lucky to have spent that much time in one place. They liked having children on long-term placements like I was because it would allow us to get settled.

When I moved in I was very shy and nervous, because it was a massive change for me, but they welcomed me and made me feel like part of their family and I settled with them quickly.

They helped me become more confident and come out of my shell a lot more and just helped me open up as a person. They made me feel seen and heard. I could talk to them about anything, and it wouldn’t faze them, they just listened and supported me.

When I moved into my own place, they helped me to clean, tidy and decorate before I moved in and they gave me some of their furniture to help get me started. Like I was their own child. They really care about their foster children and would do anything to help you.

Derrick and Rachael were amazing with me and the other children they fostered. They had an incredible amount of patience, which looking back now, I realise they need to make them great foster carers.

They made me feel like I had a home with them, I was just like everyone else. I had that stability and safety, which many people take for granted, and it’s those little things that make such a big difference.

Knowing they are on the end of the phone and that I have a place to call home when you haven’t had a home or a family before, is all you need as a foster child. You need love, you need stability, and you need someone to be in your corner.

Now I’m living on my own and I have a good job that I enjoy in telecoms. I look back at my time in foster care and I smile. It’s full of so many happy memories and I know how lucky I am to have been fostered by Derrick and Rachael. They are my family.


“I went from nearly failing my GCSEs to getting a 1st in my first year of University because of my foster parents.” James, an Essex foster care leaver, explains how important his foster carers were for him.

I came into care when I was around 6 years old - and went to live with Gary and Debbie when I was 12, I’ve been with them ever since.

Now I’m 20 years old and entering my 2nd year at the University of Essex studying Finance and Management. I achieved a 1st during my first year of University, which I could never have imagined possible when I was at school.

I went from nearly failing my GCSEs to that in the space of a few years. I  honestly couldn’t have done that without Gary and Debbie’s support.

As a foster child moving home is always an upheaval emotionally and mentally, but as soon as I arrived at Gary and Debbie’s, I was immediately made to feel a part of the family.

They treated their foster children like their own children, they involved me in everything they did, and I also got on well with their biological children. I even got teased by them, which just solidified my relationship with the family.

I knew that I was cared for, they treated me with respect and set standards for me to do well in my studies and in my life. These standards, and a new confidence to achieve, helped me push myself harder, especially after nearly failing my GCSEs. With Gary and Debbie’s support I put in the effort I needed to get where I am today.

When I first arrived, I’d been in the care system for 6 years and needed a lot of emotional support. They put in the time to help me and took an interest in what I was doing. These small things made such a difference to my life.

Gary and Debbie never judged me and even when we started to have a few issues after a couple of years we still all put in the effort. I have now been with Gary and Debbie for 8 years and I am lucky enough to still live in their annex whilst I’m at University.

More recently, I chose to be a part of the fostering panel at Essex County Council because I believe my experience of being a foster child has put me in good stead for helping the council make positive changes for all those young people coming into care.

I always tell new children going into care to allow themselves time to get to know their new foster carers, each new home will have new rules and standards. You will both need time to adjust, but you must always meet your foster carers 50-50. It must work from both sides

Foster care is a vital role that is always needed for children for a myriad of reasons. There can be a stigma surrounding foster children, but there are so many ways that children can come into care. Every child deserves a place to call home and to succeed in their life.


"In September I will be going to university as a student social worker, which is a subject very close to me. I appreciate having Debbie and her family in my life so much, without their support, passion, care and attention I wouldn’t be who I am today."

I’ve been in foster care for 12 years, since I was six years’ old, and it wasn’t until I came to Debbie, that my life started to get better.

I have lived with Debbie and her husband for 10 years’ now, and I have loved my time with them. Fostering is different for everyone, things don’t always work out and I’ve learned that’s ok, it happens, and I now know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without Debbie’s support.

Debbie is just so passionate and committed to fostering - she understood me straight away and took a genuine interest in my life.

I first came to Debbie for respite care, to see if we were a good match, and I’ve been with them ever since.

I have grown up with Debbie and her family. She helped me accept and grieve the loss of my mum, and we have been through secondary school and college together. Even though there have been challenges, she has completely shaped my life and helped me get to where I want to go.

In September I will be going to university as a student social worker, which is a subject very close to me.

I want to become a social worker and work with young people because I understand what they’ve been and are going through.

I know will be able to help young people in care because I can relate to them.

Debbie has helped prepare me for University life, by teaching me general life skills, such as cooking and cleaning, but I’m touched that they will be keeping my bedroom so I can come back home to them on the weekends.

Fostering is not just a career. It’s a lifestyle choice and it can change your foster child’s life so much if you have the passion and love to give.

Even though you don’t always get on with each other, as with most relationships, I appreciate having Debbie and her family in my life so much. Without their support, passion, care and attention I wouldn’t be who I am today.


“A mother may give birth to you, but a foster mum raises you”

Police Constable Stuart Sheridan has been in the care system since he was a baby. Now 32, he tells the story of how being fostered at the age of 7 set him on a new path in life.

stuart standing in front of a plane in police uniform

"I was 7 years old when I met Fran for the first time, and it gave me a sense of stability I’d obviously been missing.

Despite this, I distinctly remember feeling terrified when I first turned up. Fran just seemed to get it though. She made a real effort with me even though I was probably very difficult.

My favourite memory was being treated to a Burger King. It’s sometimes the smallest gestures which have the biggest impact.

Fran made a promise to my father before he died that I would always stay in education. True to her word I kept a 100% attendance record. You don’t always appreciate routine when you’re young, but you understand how it has shaped your life when you reach adulthood.

She always guided me on what was right and wrong. When I first arrived, I stole twenty pence coins from a weighing machine in ASDA. She marched me right back into the shop to give them back. She also instilled a lot of confidence in me to challenge injustice.

It’s no surprise really that I ended up being a police officer!

I meet a lot of young people in the line of duty who say to me “You don’t know what it’s like being in care”. Well, I do. And I know that you can’t blame your situation on how you behave. You just have to use the cards you’re dealt with and play your best game with it.

My advice to any young person finding themselves in care is to seize every opportunity available to you. Join a club or try new activities; it will keep you off the streets and give you new life skills.

I very much regard Fran as my mum and I still see her regularly when I can.

I can honestly say that I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for Fran. Certainly not experiencing a diverse career within the Police Force.

It all stems from a good upbringing with Fran motivating me to always do better.

A mother may give birth to you, but a foster mum raises you. And Fran did that fantastically."


"Nick has inspired me to learn to drive, go to university, get a job"

Imogen Halley, aged 19 from Braintree, was fostered by Nick just three years ago. Here, she explains how his kindness has given her opportunities she never imagined.

"I turned up at Nick’s three years ago with my little sister. At first, I was nervous because it was a new town, a new house, and a new parent all in one go.

We did things as a family, like going out for breakfast, and that helped me feel more comfortable.

It also helped that Nick is just so down to earth, kind and calm to absolutely everyone. Actually, that undersells him. Nick is the nicest person I’ve ever met! I always say that he could literally kill you with kindness.

I turned 19 recently and the message on his card read ‘You’re just like a daughter to me and I’m lucky to have met you’.

I also got a birthday card from Nick’s biological son, who lives at home with us, calling me sister.

You have no idea how much those simple sentences meant to me.

I’ve noticed a lot of stigma around foster children that they’re naughty and hard work. I’m hopeful that Nick would disagree!

I’ve watched him over the years holding down a busy job whilst looking after a household full of children and young adults on his own. He has very much inspired me to go to university, get a job and learn to drive.

As a foster child you get various allowances and it would be easy to see that as ‘free money’. But I’ve never seen it like that due to the work ethic installed in me by Nick.

I’m very grateful for the many opportunities he gave me, such as paying for driving lessons and helping me to buy a car. I'm so thankful for him.

Are you interested in transforming a child's life through fostering?

If you'd like to know what it takes to foster a child and how much you can earn as a carer, visit our How to become a foster carer section.


or to talk to our friendly recruitment team call 0800 801 530