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Leigh's story

Single mum, Leigh, 34 has been fostering since 2020. She has so far focussed on short-term fostering, welcoming several younger children into the family home she shares with her daughter, 10, and their adorable dog, Dexter

Leigh case study

Leigh has also looked after babies for short periods, providing short term care for other foster carers. Here Leigh shares what led her to fostering, the benefits it has brought her family and the necessity for self-care and a strong support network when your role is centred around meeting the needs of the children you look after.

Fostering when you have children living at home 

Talking about her journey into fostering, Leigh said: "I'd never had in my mind that I would have an only child. I always thought I would have more, but obviously that just didn't happen." 

After initially considering adoption, it was Leigh's mum who first suggested to her the possibility of fostering. 

"My mum said, why not foster? Why don't you look into that? So it was her who put the idea in my mind, and I think it has worked out really well. It's given my daughter that sort of sibling relationship, even though it's not full time and it's not forever.  

"I also think it's made her grow up to be a more empathetic person, to have more patience and to understand that some families aren't like our family and some children don't have all the nice things she has had growing up. It has really made a difference, I think." 

Adding: "She has just had such a great relationship with all the children. Really, it's been lovely to see." 

The impact of fostering on family life 

Before fostering, Leigh worked in retail, which meant she often worked during important holidays like Christmas and wasn't able to spend much time with her daughter over the summer holidays. Leigh discussed the idea of fostering with her then 7-year-old daughter before moving forwards with her application.  

"I said, look, if it's something that you really don't want me to do. I won't do it, but I think this is going to be good for our family as well as for me in doing something I really want to do." 

Leigh pointed out how fostering could fit better with family life, allowing her to be around more for holidays while helping other children too. 

On board with the idea, her daughter said: "Right, we'll give it a go."

So far, Leigh has fostered two young boys in succession - a six-year-old boy who was with them for a year, followed by a three-year-old who recently moved on to adoption after two years with the family. Leigh acknowledges the lives of her, and her daughter (and the dog) have been changed significantly by fostering, but says this has been for the better. 

She tells how her daughter enjoys taking on an 'older sibling' role in the household, but they still prioritise spending quality time and doing activities together when they can.  

It probably did take a little bit of getting used to, but she's resilient and takes it all in her stride.  I always make sure that we do have quality time together too, just the two of us. I think that's very important to make sure she knows that she gets that quality time with her mom as well. 

Becoming regular short break carer

Although Leigh has looked after two younger children so far for a significant amount of time, she is approved to look after young people aged 0-18 years old and in the three years she's been fostering, she's stepped in to support other foster carers by providing short break care for several babies.   

"I've also done short-term care for babies when other foster carers have gone on holiday and I've even looked after one for 3 hours, when a foster carer had an event to go to and they couldn't take the baby with them.  Obviously I get some me-time at times as well. It's just good having that support network and other people understanding what you're going through." 

Leigh described the lovely bond she was able to build with a baby with additional needs, who regularly visited her for short break care.  

"She's beautiful. She's just been adopted recently and I had her about five or six times for weekends. She had a lot of additional needs including Down Syndrome and she had a feeding tube. I got trained on how to use the feeding tube because there's not a lot of foster carers who can do it and it was great for me to be able to help her and her foster carer in this practical way."  

Leigh found she also built a relationship with the little girl's carer, who she now counts as part of her extended support network and the pair are able to help each other if needed.  

It's just important to have that network. It is an amazing but hard job. You do have those moments where you need that support and by having other foster carers as friends you can just text and ask 'have you gone through this and do you have any advice?' It's just nice to have that with other foster carers.

The importance of self-care and a strong support network 

"I think it is important that foster carers take time out for themselves and don't get too stuck in the day to day. You need time for yourself, otherwise you're no use to anyone." Leigh said. 

"It is important to take time for yourself and for me, time for me and my daughter. And the children who come for a short time from other foster carers, they enjoy it. They see it as getting to go to a new house with all these new toys for the weekend." 

Leigh can also count on her family for support, and although she said she felt no reluctance applying to foster as a single parent, she's found having her own family close by has really helped. 

She explained: "I feel like I had the parenting skills to know that I could do it on my own, but I have a very close relationship with my family - emotionally and physically - as they live just down the road. So it's very helpful to have that network and support. They love the children just as much as I do, because I see my mom and my grandma every day. So, they're as much a part of these kids' lives as they are my daughters. And they treat them just like a grandchild, no matter how long I've got them for." 

Finally, Leigh also spoke about the relationship she has with her supervising social worker, who regularly checks in with her and she says she wouldn't be without: 

"You do have a lot of support, which is definitely needed. I absolutely love my social worker. I've told her she's never allowed to leave me!"

Find out more

If you think you could share your home to shape the future of children in the North East we'd love to hear from you.  Complete our no-obligation enquiry form and one of our Foster with North East team will be in touch to answer any questions you may have, and talk you through the application process. 


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