A couple living near Magor have described their experience of fostering as one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.

Richard and Caroline Allen have shared their experiences of fostering to encourage potential foster carers to come forward.

During the last seven years, they have fostered seven children, two of whom are still with them.

Caroline said: “We had three lovely children of our own, but we always wanted to have more.  Our children were doing well in school and we decided that the time was right to foster.  We just wanted to help children in need.”

Fostering is providing a temporary home for children when they are unable to live with a family member.  Short-term, respite care and emergency placements see a child placed for a few days, weeks or months.  Long-term fostering sees children placed until they are 18.

“The assessment process was time consuming and soul searching, and could put some people off,” said Richard.  “However, fostering is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs in the world and it is worth it in the end.”

The couple’s first foster child was an emergency placement for a couple of months and so far it has been the shortest placement.  It was also the toughest and taught the couple some valuable lessons about the challenges ahead.

“When you foster, you have all the responsibility but not the authority,” explained Richard. “With every placement, we speak to the fostering authority about what is going well and what the challenges are with each individual child.

“You have to learn to give and take, and slowly absorb the young person into the family.  It is important that they feel relaxed in a caring environment.  We play board games with them, which helps break down barriers.  The biggest challenge is trying to get them to integrate into the family and embrace them as your own.”

Children and young people are fostered for lots of different reasons.  Often children are removed for their safety, having suffered abuse or neglect, or witness to domestic abuse and drug and alcohol misuse.  Although sometimes, parents may just need support if they are unwell and not able to cope.

“They are traumatised or developmentally delayed children and we help to straighten out the creases,” said Caroline. “The most rewarding part of the job is seeing children realise that there is life outside of abuse.  We provide them with an environment where they can be themselves and encourage them to do whatever they want in life.”

It is always important that any child fits into the established family dynamic, but this is something the Allen household has embraced.  Daughter Bethan explained: “It’s like having a sleepover with one of your siblings’ friends at first, but then you get to know them and they become part of the family.

“We have a lot of animals and they are a real icebreaker, offering silent companionship and unconditional love.  The animals don’t judge you and this often helps a new foster child settle.”

The couple have predominately fostered teenagers and believe it is important to give those in their care experiences that they would otherwise not be able to do.

Richard said: “It’s wonderful to see the transformation, to see their aspirations change.  It’s about improving their outcomes.  By showing them a completely different way of living gives them a new outlook on life.  We learn from them and they learn from us.  It’s incredibly rewarding.”

Monmouthshire County Council is looking for people who are committed to supporting children and young people and who can offer them the stability and support that they need.  There are no restrictions on who can and can’t foster; however, all applicants are subject to an advanced police check.  Foster carers are paid allowances to help with the costs of clothing, food and general expenses.

To find out more, contact 01873 735945 or familyplacement@monmouthshire.gov.uk