Parents-of-six Lesley and Graham Burton enjoyed raising their own children so much that they became foster carers to give others the opportunity to have a stable and loving family life.
The couple, from Ashton, started looking into fostering as their older children grew up and left home and they even moved to a bigger house so they could accommodate as many children as possible.
They became approved foster carers for Tameside Council in 2013 and currently look after four children – three girls aged 10,13 and 14 in long term placements under special guardianship and a nine-year-old boy who has been with them for nearly a year.
They are supporting the council's current campaign to recruit more foster carers to help provide stable homes for local children in care. The council is holding online information events on 8 and 15 September 6-8.30pm for anyone who would like to find out more. To register your interest call 0161 342 2342.
Lesley, 58, said: "We had wanted to foster for years but there was never enough room while most of our children were still at home. In the end we decided to move to a bigger house – we just felt we had so much to offer in terms of being able to give children a stable and happy home. We have always had a houseful of children so fostering felt right for us."
Fostering felt so right in fact that Graham, 62, even gave up his job as a college lecturer to foster full time.
He said: "Fostering is 24/7 but you are your own boss and can work from home and there is lots of flexibility – we can all enjoy weeks down at our caravan over the summer without anyone having to worry about going to work. More than anything, you get a lot of satisfaction from it - you see the rewards all the time. It is very special to see children who arrived with their own challenges growing up to be very lovely and settled young people."
The couple told how they enjoy doing normal activities with the children – from playing football in the garden to going out for a Chinese meal. They also enjoy giving children experiences and opportunities they may not have otherwise had – such as going on holiday.
Fostering has gone so well for them that one of their own birth children has now become an approved foster carer for Tameside Council.
Lesley said: "Our children have always been very positive and accepting about us fostering, they treat our foster children as part of the family, buy them presents and invite them over. They have seen for themselves the difference it makes and we're very proud of our daughter who has gone on to foster herself.
"Our 16–year-old daughter who still lives with us says it is challenging sharing your parents but she also says she wouldn't have it any other way – she treats our foster children just like one of her siblings and they enjoy spending time together shopping, going to the cinema or going out for coffee."
While the couple enjoy having three children in long term placements and giving them security and stability, they do keep one of their placements as short term and have looked after different children for emergency, respite and short term care.
Lesley said: "You do get attached and it is difficult when they move on but it is so rewarding to be part of their journey to a better life, whether it be with their parents, long term foster carers or adoption. You can really make a difference."
Tameside Council is looking for people from all backgrounds to become foster carers for local children and provides full training, support and an allowance. For more information call 0161 342 2342 www.tameside.gov.uk/fostering