A Southport dad, who was raised by his own grandparents after a family breakdown, is calling for more people in the local area to consider opening their homes to vulnerable children and young people in need.
As part of Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from Monday 10th – Sunday 23rd May, Stephen Ross is hoping by sharing his experiences as a foster carer he can encourage more people to think about fostering.
Stephen and his wife Louise started fostering 12 years ago when Stephen closed the doors on his antique furniture restoration business to become a full-time foster carer.
Fostering is something Stephen had always thought about doing after experiencing a challenging upbringing himself and moving in to live with his grandparents. Stephen felt he could offer support to children and young people who are unable to live with their parents, in the same way he had from his grandmother.
Stephen said: “When I was 12, my mum and dad split up and my mum couldn’t look after me and my four brothers and sisters, so it was decided that I would move in with my grandparents. The transition was difficult, I wasn’t going to school and was also trying to get used to my gran’s house rules, which were pretty strict and very different to what I was used to.
“I soon realised that it doesn’t have to be your mum or dad who are supposed to be there for you. For me, my gran was my rock and she made me realise at a young age that I could do the same for someone else who might not have a relationship with their parents. My gran helped me find my potential and build up my confidence and without her, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Stephen and Louise, who have five children of their own, fostered with several providers before moving to Foster Careline, an independent fostering provider - which is part of the Five Rivers social enterprise family - based in the Wirral.
When the couple first started fostering in 2009, they welcomed two sisters, Claire and Kristy, with additional needs into the family and they remained with Stephen and Louise for 11 years.
The sisters have now moved out of the family home but still regularly keep in touch with Stephen and Louise.
The couple have now started a new type of fostering with Foster Careline. Parent and child fostering is a specialist type of care, which involves looking after a parent and their baby with the aim of keeping them together as a family unit where possible and to help the parents develop the skills they need to look after their little ones.
On advice to others who are considering becoming foster carers, Stephen said: “Fostering is extremely rewarding. The fact you are influencing these children, young people, or babies, and helping them grow and change is priceless. Seeing them happy and knowing you had something to do with that is priceless. Fostering is hard work, but it is so unbelievably worthwhile.”
For more information on Foster Careline, which is part of the Five Rivers social enterprise family, visit https://www.fostercareline.com/, call the enquiries team on 01513 911 345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org