Fostering Goodwill To Children In Need
With four children, six dogs and a full time job running a shop, the O’Neills already had a hectic life. Then they added foster kids into the mix. Heather, 38 and 47-year-old Dave took the life changing step of welcoming their first foster child into their home 12 months ago and have cared for six children since then. There have been tears and tantrums along the way, sibling rivalry and moments of doubt and frustration, but they say it is all worth it.
Now they are backing Cheshire County Council’s campaign to recruit new foster carers, to provide a home for those kids whose parents are unwilling, or unable to care for them.
Heather said: “It is the most difficult job I have ever done, but it is also the most rewarding. I don’t regret it for a minute. It is hard at times but you get great support and great training and when you see what a difference you can make, however small, it is all worth it.”
The couple decided to become foster parents two years ago after talking to their friend, mum-of-three and foster carer Julie Brown, and husband Nick, also from Lacey Green.
She said: “I knew Julie was a foster carer and after about 12 months of talking about it we decided to try it. She warned us how hard it is but she also said it is the most rewarding thing you will ever do.”
After consulting with their four children, aged 20, 17, 16 and 14, and undergoing extensive training, they welcomed their first child into their home a year later.
She said the first placement was difficult, as they all adjusted to having a troubled teenager in the home, but the transformation by the time he left their house made it all worth while.
Heather said: “A lot of carers get into it after their kids have grown up and left home, and I am sure if you asked my kids they would say it is hard accepting someone else into your family. But I think it makes better people of them, it makes them realise how lucky they are not having the emotions and problems they have to go through.”
Her daughter Lisa, 17, agreed: “It is hard having to share your parents sometimes but you just have to remember what they have been through.”
The couple, who run the Village Store on Lacey Green, are one of six families on Lacey Green, including Julie Brown, who care for foster children
Julie said: “All the children on Lacey Green are really great with the foster children, they just accept it. There isn’t a stigma attached to it now, it is accepted that unfortunately, some young people’s lives are not as easy as theirs.”
They are keen to stress that anyone, rich or poor, single or married, working or not, can apply to become foster parents. And those who do not think they could take on the responsibility full time can test the water by having kids for respite breaks or even just spend a couple of hours a week with them.
Cheshire’s executive lead member for children’s services, David Rowlands, said: “All our foster carers are very special people who are able to help children during what can be a difficult patch in their lives.
“Although we are seeking foster carers for children of all ages we particularly want to hear from people who are interested in fostering teenagers, helping them reach their potential at a time when they need a welcoming home.”