An Epping Forest couple say fostering children has been the ‘best decision’ they have ever made.

To mark Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from May10 to 23, Essex County Council are seeking to highlight the life-changing difference foster carers are making in giving children a second chance at the childhood they have been deprived of and helping them to recover from the trauma experienced.

Foster carers, like Alison, 54, and Debbie, 56, from North Weald have been fostering for six years. They currently have two brothers aged 12 and 9 in their care.

The couple recognise that their eldest foster child lost out on a large part of his childhood as he took on the role of both mother and father at a young age. He would routinely look after his younger brother; going to the shops to buy food, cooking them dinner, and making sure he got ready for school.

Alison and Debbie are keen to provide their foster children with nurturing therapeutic care so that they can focus on being a child again.

Alison said: “Fostering isn’t about ‘saving' a young person – it's about helping a young person recover from their past traumas and be the best they can be through stability, consistency, and love. All the things a child deserves from a parent.

“We will hopefully help them to develop the self-confidence, ability, and life skills they will need to become the successful adults they deserve to be”.

Due to the impact of Coronavirus the fostering service has seen a 30% reduction in approved foster carers this year. Essex County Council is therefore urging more people like Alison and Debbie to support vulnerable children by becoming a foster carer.

This Foster Care Fortnight Alison and Debbie are recommending that anyone thinking about fostering children or young people should just pick up the phone and enquire.

Debbie said, “Fostering really has been the best decision we ever made as a couple and it’s totally changed our lives together for the better.

“We have come to realise that our foster children don’t want expensive toys or grand gestures – it’s the small and simple things in life that they want and need. Like taking them to the beach for the first time or teaching them to ride a bike – all firsts for the young boys we care for. Sadly, it has also meant reassuring them that they won’t go hungry, which is so sad as no child should be without such a basic need”.

Debbie added: “The difference you can make to a young person, just by treating them as part of your family, is huge.

“And that’s very much how we see our foster children – a part of our family. There is no greater reward than seeing them develop into happy young people who are enjoying their childhood!”