WITH a household of four growing boys aged 6 to 19 to care for, Tameside foster mum Marie Buxton has certainly got her hands full.
But the 51-year-old – who is supporting Tameside Council’s ‘Best job in the World’ foster carer recruitment campaign during Foster Care Fortnight 16 – 29 May - would not have it any other way.
“I love my job and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else now,” she said. “I don’t look at it as work or a chore – it is a way of life and is more satisfying and rewarding than I could have ever imagined.”
Marie told how she worked in retail until she and her husband, Warren, who works for himself, first looked into fostering for Tameside Council nine years ago.
“I worked as an area support manager, which I used to enjoy, but over the years the pressures had got worse and I realised I wasn’t very happy anymore and needed a life change. We didn’t have children but realised we had a lot to offer so we decided to find out more about foster caring.
“It’s the best move we’ve ever made. Yes our lives changed overnight and yes there have been challenges and doubts but they have been far outweighed by the smiles, hugs, warmth and love.
“This is one big happy household where we hope to help children to feel safe, secure and loved while helping them to be the best they can be.
“It’s been a huge lifestyle change, you have to be organised and plan ahead, but life is more special now. For example, I used to hate Christmas when I worked in retail but now I absolutely love it. It gets to fever pitch in this house with all the excitement and family celebrations.”
From the outset, Marie and Warren were keen to offer longer term foster placements and began fostering two brothers from the ages ten and nine. Both boys stayed with them throughout their teens. The eldest one moved out at 19 and is now at university but the youngest, Damien, who is at college, still lives with them under the Council’s Staying Put scheme.
“We have seen Damien and his brother through many milestones, from learning to ride a bike to sitting their GCSE’s. It’s great they we can still be there for Damien as he moves into adulthood, teaching him life skills like money management and cooking while providing a stable and supportive home base.”
In 2010 the couple fostered two more brothers, aged two and three. Originally the placement was supposed to be for just a few weeks but it was going so well that the boys stayed with the family until discussions started about them going for adoption. Despite their original plans, Marie and Warren decided to adopt them themselves.
“I have two hats when I’m fostering – my family hat and my professional hat and you have to wear your professional hat to put your own feelings aside and do what’s best for the children, no matter how attached you are.
“But we discussed it with the older boys and decided that, in this case, adopting was the right thing to do. These two are now 11 and nine and are doing really well. So well in fact that six months ago we decided we had room to foster one more – a six-year-old boy – who has fitted into the family brilliantly. It is so lovely to see him thriving and growing in confidence.
“All the boys see themselves as brothers and enjoy being spending time together. I think Damien enjoys being the eldest one now and a role model for the younger ones to look up to.”
Over the years the couple have also provided a 14-month placement for an eight-year-old girl who went on for adoption and a one week emergency placement for two siblings. In the future, they hope to do more work with teenagers.
“It’s a busy house and no two days are the same. It’s exhausting but exhilarating, you’re constantly learning and it’s never boring. I have fantastic support from my family and the foster care support team and social workers as well as lots of training. There is also a wonderful support network of local foster carers and it feels like being part of a bigger family. I enjoy being a professional in what I do but most of all I enjoy being a mum and giving children a chance in a stable and loving home.”
Tameside Council foster carers receive an excellent ongoing training and support package as well as an attractive allowance. The fostering team want to hear from people of all ages and backgrounds who may be able to provide a stable and caring home. They need foster homes for children of all ages, including young people in further education and also sibling groups. To find out more call 0161 368 8865 or see www.tameside.gov.uk/fostering