DCSIMG

Fostering became a way of life for caring couple

Emma Price and husband Martin

Emma Price and husband Martin

 

Opening up your home to a child you do not know is something that many people would not even consider.

But it is something Emma and Martin Price have been doing for the last 10 years.

The couple have just been recognised with a special award for their dedication after spending the past decade as foster carers.

In the first six months alone, they welcomed 19 children into their home, often groups of siblings with nowhere else to go.

And the couple, who have two children of their own, have no plans to stop.

Emma, 40, who lives in Chorley, said: “It’s a part of who we are.

“I think it would be a shock now if we went back to the four of us. We’re used to being a busy, bustling household.”

It is 10 years since they started fostering, but Emma and Martin, 42, had actually thought about doing it for much longer.

The couple had already done a great deal of voluntary work with children separately.

Emma said: “It’s something we had both independently thought about before we met each other.

“Because it was a shared thing for both of us, it seemed like something we would do together.”

They married in 1996 and went on to have their children, Kirsten, now 15, and Joel, aged 13.

Emma worked as a behaviour mentor in a challenging high school and had also gone into schools to support children with the YMCA.

But she found it difficult to help children when they were away from school.

“You can’t carry the work on when they go home or back in the community,” she said.

“The children we foster are with us 24/7 and there’s a longer period of time to have that influence and work through some issues.”

The couple decided it was time to start fostering and went through a lengthy assessment process.

It took between six and nine months and looked at all kinds of things, including their relationship, family history and any issues they have had and overcome.

Among the things they had to consider was the impact it would have on their own children, who were aged five and three at the time.

Emma said: “Obviously they were very young then. They were very supportive of it. They understood at the level a three and five-year-old would.

“We always made it very clear to our two children that although there would be other children coming into our family, the core of our family would always be the four family, which is what we call ourselves.”

After going through the assessment, Emma and Martin went before a panel of doctors, social workers and other experts for final approval.

Emma said: “Once you have that approval, you are on-call from that moment on.

“I have known people who have had someone move in a few days after the panel approved them.”

The couple then had to wait for a call asking them to take in a child.

Emma said: “In our first six months, it was crazy. We had something silly like 19 children.

“We were taking siblings in groups of three at a time. Three would move in and stay with us for however long. For whatever reason they would leave and then another three would come.”

When they are called, they are given brief information about the child and asked whether they are able to foster them.

Emma said: “It’s about getting the right match and getting the right child with the right family. That’s not just to benefit the child, but to benefit you too.

“You want placements that are going to be successful for everybody concerned.”

Emma and Martin can take in children up to the age of 18 and the length of their stay can vary massively.

Some children will just stay for a weekend, while one child stayed for six-and-half years.

They also have an adult placement, with a woman who turned 18 while staying with them.

Every child is different and the family has to be prepared to deal with whatever happens.

They could require foster care because of a bereavement, an ill parent or many other reasons.

Whatever the circumstances, Emma and Martin always welcome the foster children into their home.

They provide photographs of the family and information about the area before they arrive and take them shopping to buy their favourite foods.

Emma always allows a child to choose what everyone eats for tea on their first day, so they can eat something they like.

Emma said: “My job is to look after the child and keep them safe. We tell them it’s a safe house.”

And no matter how long they stay with the family, Emma believes she can make a difference.

“The input you can have is great, even just for a weekend, in giving them a break for those days from the reason they came into care. Those three days aren’t wasted,” she said.

A key part of fostering is being flexible and understanding that things can change at any time.

It could be that a child can return to their own parents earlier than expected or that they need to stay for longer.

Emma said: “You have to be the taxi driver and a teacher and a doctor or nurse - all the things you do as a parent.”

And when a child does leave, it can be heart-breaking for Emma and Martin.

Emma said: “It can be hard when they leave. If I’m honest, I have cried over every child who has ever left my house.

“I have cried sometimes because I have been sad to see them go, but also because I’m proud of what they have achieved or the young adult who is moving on.

“Sometimes I have cried with relief because of the challenges we have faced together.”

But when they do leave, it is not the end of their relationship.

Many of the children who came to stay with Emma have got back in touch with her later.

She said: “Now that they are older, they are back in touch and coming back for tea and bringing their own children. They come back and know where we are.

“There are a handful of young adults out there who are part of our family.”

After 10 years of fostering, Emma has no plans to give up yet.

She said: “I don’t regret it at all. It’s like any family life - there are days we are glad the children are in bed and days we stand back and think that we love what we do.”

And she believes that growing up in a foster home has had a good impact on her own children.

She said: “Our children are now young adults and they are the people they are because they have experienced these things.

“They have a better understanding of community and caring for others and how life affects all of us.”

As well as continuing to foster, Emma is now part of pre-approval training and shares her own experiences with people hoping to become foster carers.

There is a shortfall of foster carers, but Emma would encourage people to think carefully before signing up.

She said: “I see lots of people who have thought about fostering. Fostering is not a hobby, it’s a career, a job.

“You need a bit of a therapist and a social worker and a teacher in you. The more equipped you are, the more able you are to help somebody. There are challenges you need to face and you need to think about it seriously when you make that decision.”

To find out more about fostering, call Foster Care Associates on 0800 023 4561 or visit www.thefca.co.uk.

 

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