Former teaching staff Wayne Allington and Cheryl Hartley have told how they switched their school careers to fostering to help make “more of a difference” to the lives of vulnerable children.
The couple, from Stalybridge, are foster carers for Tameside Council and currently look after two siblings – a three year-old girl and her nine-year-old brother – and a 13-year-old girl.
They are backing the council’s foster carer recruitment campaign – the fostering team want to hear from people from all backgrounds but those who already have experience of working with children are particularly encouraged to get in touch. An informal drop in event will be held on Tuesday 10 March 5pm-9pm at Village Hotel Ashton, Pamir Drive, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL7 0PG where anyone interested in fostering can talk to social workers and foster carers. Refreshments will be provided.
Wayne, 50, a former teacher and Cheryl, 51, who was teaching assistant, told how they were working together in the same primary school when they made their career change to fostering.
Cheryl said: “We saw increasingly more children presenting with issues and needs that there just wasn’t time in the curriculum to properly address. We did what we could – gave them breakfast when they hadn’t been fed and provided an education – but then we didn’t know what happened to them when they went home.
“We realised we could make more of a difference to children’s lives if we became foster carers – we could give them the time and take more of a pastoral approach. We already knew we worked brilliantly together – we make a powerful team – and we just felt we could do something really positive for looked after children.”
Wayne said: “You don’t need a PHD to make a good foster carer, you just need to show the children interest, support and acceptance of who they are. It is wonderful to see them grow in confidence and realise what they are capable of with the right support.
“Routines and boundaries are paramount to help them feel safe and secure. Food is a massive for them – they get a lot of reassurance and stability from regular mealtimes. They go to bed without having to worry about when they are having their next meal and they get up feeling positive about their day.”
The couple have the full support of their own children. Cheryl has 13-year-old Harry, who lives with them, and 22-year-old Louie while Wayne has two daughters – Rose, 14, and Phoebie, 11 – who stay with them at weekend.
Cheryl said: “I’m a homebird and a nurturer and nothing pleases me more than seeing our children and foster children all together around the table, enjoying a family meal and lots of interaction.”
The couple say there are many golden moments of fostering, but one of the highlights is when the children express how happy and comfortable they feel.
Wayne said: “Just the other day the nine-year-old walked through the door and said ‘ahh home sweet home’ and it was lovely.”
Cheryl said: “I like seeing them become part of the family, watching them grow up and overcoming things. I know it is a cliché to say it is rewarding but it is, the job satisfaction is brilliant.”
Tameside Council Deputy Leader Cllr Bill Fairfoull, who is responsible for children and families, said: “Foster carers like Wayne and Julie do a fantastic job and make a huge difference for our looked after children, giving them an experience of stable family life and supporting them to be the best they can be.
“There are 439 looked after children in foster care in Tameside, 277 are with the council’s own approved foster carers. We need to recruit more foster carers to ensure Tameside children and young people in care can be looked after by foster families within their own community, attend their local schools and see their own friends.”
Foster carers are needed for children of all ages including, teenagers, young people in further education and sibling groups. Full training, support and an allowance is provided. For further information see www.tameside.gov.uk/fostering or call 0161 368 8865.