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You learn a lot about yourself and your partner

Adults, children and young people running a stall at an outdoor bake sale

Claire* and her husband James* had discussed the possibility of fostering before they got married. "We're both very family orientated and wanted children of our own, but right from the start we said we'd like to adopt or foster too."

Claire's career has mostly involved working with children. As a civilian station officer for the police, she would regularly see children arriving with a parent who had been arrested, often in very distressing circumstances. One incident made a deep impression and strengthened Claire's resolve to become a foster carer.

"A two-year-old came in with his mother who had been arrested. She wasn't in a fit state physically or mentally. The little boy had been hurt by his mum and had injuries on his body. It was Christmas Eve and there was nobody available to help, so I looked after him all night. Then in the early hours of Christmas morning, we had to take him to a children's home. The staff were amazing, warm and welcoming but I couldn't help feeling that it would have been better for such a young child to go to a foster family."

Claire and James have five children of their own and have been foster carers for five years. "We chose to foster through Norfolk County Council because I know they have secure structures and systems in place. Learning and development is very important and we have that all the way through as a safety net. We feel very well supported."

The couple were allocated a social worker to take them through the process of becoming a foster carer. "We bonded with her very quickly. It was clear she wanted to get the best out of us and we had a good rapport. The process is very long and in depth which might put some people off. But when you start your fostering journey, you realise why so much information is needed. You learn a lot about yourself - and your partner!"

For Claire, the best thing about being a foster carer is seeing a child's confidence and happiness increase. "That moment when a child looks back at you for reassurance - whether it's riding a bike for the first time or tying their shoelaces - it's so moving and rewarding. This may seem like small gains, but everything progresses from there."

Of course, being a foster carer isn't plain sailing. Many children have been severely traumatised and may have behavioural issues. "Everything can be going well, then something happens, and you feel you're back to square one. Often their behaviour reflects how they dealt with trauma in the past. It can be difficult understanding how a child might react to a situation, so consistency is key. It's crucial to keep reinforcing positive behaviour and talking things through."

Claire feels that fostering has been a positive experience for her and her family. She's planning to retire next year and wants to expand her fostering. "I feel we're growing into fostering and I'm looking forward to doing more when I retire."

*Names have been changed to conceal identity

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