CARE leaver Chester Reid has told how loving and supportive foster carers helped to turn his life around.
The 17-year-old, from Ashton, is helping Tameside Council support the regional You Can Foster campaign as part of Foster Care Fortnight 8- 21 May, which this year is highlighting how fostering transforms lives.
Chester said: “Foster carers are amazing – every single foster carer I have been with has helped to make me who I am today.
“Being in foster care can have it’s up and downs but I am a better person than I would have been without the support of my carers – I don’t know what I would have done without them.”
Chester went into care at the age of eight and has been in placements with several foster families – all of whom have made a positive contribution to his upbringing. But there are some particular foster carers that stand out to Chester for making the biggest difference.
He said: “When I was ten I moved to a placement with a couple who I will always feel grateful to for making me feel part of a normal family.
“Straight away it felt like the perfect match and in my eyes it was everything that a normal family should feel like. It was simple things likes routines, rules that were not too strict but not too lenient either and family meals around the table.
“They also gave me some really memorable experiences like my first holiday abroad and really boosted my self esteem, making me want to be my best – I remember I wanted to start dressing smarter like their sons who were older and had left home, they were really positive role models for me.
“It felt like I finally had the kind of family that my friends had – something that I had thought would never happen for me.”
After taking his GCSEs at 16, Chester wanted to start working and he moved out of foster care into a bedsit on the care leaver programme.
He said: “It felt a little bit daunting but I was also ready to be independent. You still get lots of support and help with things like paying bills, money etc.
“I still keep in touch with my foster carers and go round for meals. Whenever I see any of my former foster cares it’s great – we give eachother a hug and they are pleased to see that I’m doing well in my life.
“I’m also in touch with my mum and am very close to my little sister still – I get on well with her foster carers and so I can see her lots.”
Chester is now working for Active Tameside running a programme for adults with learning disabilities.
He said: “I absolutely love it – you really get to know them and their different personalities and it’s good to feel you are contributing something positive to their day.
“I don’t know what my long term future holds but I find that exciting – I have learned over the years not to look too far ahead and make the most of all opportunities.
“Anyone considering fostering should go for it – you could really make a difference for a young person, like my foster carers did for me.”
Tameside Council foster carers receive excellent ongoing training and support 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.
To find out more call 0161 368 8865 or see www.youcanfoster.org/tameside
There will also be a fostering drop in event at Dukinfield Town Hall on Tuesday 16 May 5-7.30pm where anyone interested in fostering will have an informal opportunity to chat to social workers and foster carers to find out more. You don’t have to book – just come along.