A Somerset foster carer recently celebrated her 80th birthday – with half her life dedicated to fostering vulnerable children.
Rosemary, who recently turned eighty, has fostered children for the last forty years and marked the special occasion with a trip to London and surprise meal organised by close friends and family, including two ‘very special’ adults she once fostered as young children.
Growing up in the 1940s, Rosemary has lived through momentous historical events like the first man on the moon, the Queen’s coronation, Margret Thatcher’s time in office, and more recently, the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Remembering how children have always been a big part of her life, Rosemary explained how she began her career working in several children’s homes.
“When I worked in a children’s home in Hertfordshire, which was a very affluent area, wealthy families would ring up around Christmas and ask if they could have a child for the day,” Rosemary said.
“We never let them as it would have been really difficult for the children, being spoiled like that for a day and then sent back.”
Later, she and her husband moved to a farm in Wales and began fostering.
“Someone once asked us if we had ever considered fostering. I don’t know how it happened, it just did.
“I did consider a career in teaching at one point, but I took a different direction and I wouldn’t change a single thing. I love fostering.”
Rosemary has fostered and worked with children for more than 40 years, ranging from very young children to teenagers. Sadly, her husband passed away several years ago, but Rosemary has continued to foster as a single carer.
Staying active and encouraging children to enjoy the outdoors is particularly important to Rosemary, often taking young children she cares for to the woods or local beauty spots to play and use their imaginations.
Though Rosemary has a passion for fostering, caring for Children Looked After isn’t without its challenges.
“The honest truth is that there are hard days. They might have lashed out at school or broken a sentimental vase without remorse, but it’s not always hard because of difficult behaviour. Sometimes it’s hard because you have to say no to something they really want, or because you’re saying goodbye.”
During her time as a foster carer, Rosemary cared for two siblings – now adults themselves and very much part of the family.
“They came to me when they were about 6 and 7 years old and are both very special. One of the children went on to university and is now settled down with her own family. The other sibling is also grown up and still a huge part of my life. They even nominated me for a community award for best mum when we lived in Wales. I’m so proud of them both. I love them very much.”
Foster carers need a spare room in their home, and must be 21 or older, with no upper age limit. Rosemary tells us “age is only a number” and wisdom and life experiences are certainly advantages for older carers.
People from all backgrounds and ethnicities, those who are single, LGBT, renting, or if they have no children of their own are welcome to apply. What matters most is that our carers want to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable children and young adults in Somerset.
“The support I’ve received from the fostering team has been fantastic. I’ve had some wonderful Supervising Social Workers. I really want people to know that”, Rosemary added.
Foster carers also receive a weekly fee and allowance for each child in their care, plus a dedicated supervising social worker and on-going training and support.
“You need to listen” is the advice Rosemary gave when asked what qualities foster carers need.
“It’s important you really listen and understand, not just with your ears, but with your eyes and your instincts. “You will learn so much from their mannerisms, their reactions, and their conversations with others.
“Our dog, Ned, has been a trusted friend to so many foster children. They can talk to him and tell him things they don’t feel comfortable talking to an adult about at first, knowing he won’t tell a soul.”
Many foster carers have pets, and they are often beneficial for children in care.
“You also mustn’t try to change the child, they will change and grow when they are ready, but they do all need love,” Rosemary concluded.
Councillor Frances Nicholson, Lead Member for Children’s Services at Somerset County Council, said “Carers like Rosemary are invaluable to Children Looked After and Children’s Services. Their compassion and commitment to the children in their care makes a real difference. I’d very much like to thank Rosemary for the wonderful job she does, and of course wish her many happy returns.”
A great foster carer can change a child’s story. To find out more visit http://www.fosteringinsomerset.org.uk or call 0800 587 9900 and speak to our friendly team. You can also follow us on Facebook @fosteringinsomerset or Twitter @fostersomerset
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