When the first of their children began to fly the nest, Chorley couple Graham and Diane Lindley noticed that they seemed to have a lot more spare time on their hands.
But rather than indulge in some well-earned rest and relaxation after raising their own family, they turned their attention – and opened their home – to other children whose lives had hit a bump in the road.
That was over six years ago – and a dozen youngsters have since passed through their care after the couple put themselves forward to become foster parents. It was a decision which Graham says came naturally.
“We’d talked about it for a while and we thought it would be nice to give something back to children – so fostering seemed like a really good thing to do,” he recalls.
“We’ve had our own children and we’ve got grandchildren now, so welcoming others into the house was probably one of the easiest things for us about the process.”
But that is not to say that the couple were completely undaunted by the prospect of the responsibility which they were taking on the first time a child arrived on their doorstep.
“We were really on edge, but it was a good experience – we’d met her before and been able to take her out for a few day trips, so there was a little bit of interaction before she came to stay with us,” Graham remembers.
And stay she has – their first foster child remains with them six and a half years later.
Graham says that he would not describe his and Diane’s fostering experience as being particularly challenging – but admits that a “take it in your stride” attitude helps.
“You can get an emergency placement where the child comes with little or nothing and maybe you’re not given a lot of information about them. Whereas if it’s a planned placement, you know about the child and what they like and dislike before they arrive – you just have to be flexible.
“There’s a lot of support from the council, available 24/7 – when we first started, we were given a foster buddy who could we contact. There are challenges, but it’s good to have that back-up to help you get through them – and now we have our own little support group locally as well.”
Graham has recently featured in a series of videos on behalf of Lancashire County Council, designed to tap into the generosity of others who might be tempted to offer a helping hand to a child when they need it most. The five short films have been released weekly over the last month – with the final one appearing later this week.
It is hoped that the campaign will spark an increase in enquiries about fostering – something which would be welcome news for an authority which sees an average of 20 children coming into its care every week of the year.
“In Lancashire, we need more people to provide the support and stable homes that these children and young people need to really thrive,” County Coun Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for children and schools, said.
“We know that fostering doesn’t just improve the lives of the children and young people who are fostered, it also has the potential to enrich the lives of foster carers and their families.”
That is a sentiment with which Graham would find it difficult to disagree.
“There is a real sense of achievement when you’ve been able to do something for a child and that child has gone on to achieve their best – it’s a fantastic feeling.
“Also we like to be active, we’re always out and about – and that experience is so much nicer when you have children with you.”
His campaign videos have led to a furry of positive comments on social media, with one praising the family for the “lovely thing” they are doing.
“It’s nice to see men getting involved in fostering and it sounds as though you and your wife are doing brilliantly,” the poster adds.
Modesty prevents Graham from acknowledging that he and Diane are doing anything out of the ordinary. But he does hint that there might be just a modicum of self-interest in the fostering process.
“It does keep you young,” he laughs.
COULD YOU BECOME A FOSTER CARER?
No qualifications or particular experience are required to become a foster carer – just the practicality of a spare room and the willingness to provide a young person with the support they need.
Foster families in Lancashire receive up to £300 per week per child to cover the costs of children in their care.
Placements range from fixed-term respite breaks at weekends or during school holidays, through to providing emergency foster care at short notice and also longer term commitments to a child.
More than half of the young people in the care of Lancashire County Council are over 10 years old and the authority is appealing for potential carers who would be interested in offering a place to an older child.
The county council is also searching for people keen to adopt sibling groups, children from a black and minority ethnic background and those with disabilities or complex needs.
Anybody interested in fostering in Lancashire can call 0300 123 6723 or visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/fostering