Meet Jennifer, a foster parent from the West Midlands who has devoted the last two decades to looked-after children.

Fostering for over 20 years, including over a decade with Clifford House, Jennifer and her husband have in total welcomed 61 children into their home. She shares her incredible fostering journey so far to encourage more foster parents to help change a child’s life.

Jennifer was working as a beauty consultant for Boots the chemist, and her husband was working in the steel trade before they took the plunge to foster. Having previously never considered it, it was Jennifer’s sister-in-law who had undergone the process and introduced the couple to fostering.

She explains:  “I don’t think anything quite prepares you as much as actually what it is, but a delightful baptism of fire in many ways.”

 “First of all, I fostered on my own, and my husband carried on working because we were concerned about how we would cope financially. But, due to the nature of the placement we had, it really did need both of us at home, so my husband gave up work as well. Then we moved into a larger house so that we had more capacity and we took on more children. It’s always been a nice busy household and it’s been a privilege to be part of these people’s lives.”  

Speaking about how her own 9-year-old daughter felt about them welcoming their first child into their home, Jennifer says: “She was a 9-year-old girl too, so they were brought up like twins!”

“That young girl, now an adult with her own little boy still comes around for a coffee and catch-up, it’s great we’re still in touch, we’re like grandparents now!”

Talking about the first children they fostered, Jennifer said: “We welcomed 2 little boys who were beautiful. But sadly, one came to us very malnourished and feral as he lived with dogs in the back garden. He wasn’t used to wearing clothes, eating hot food, or sleeping in a bed. After a failed adoption, the boys came back to stay with us where we had to rebuild their trust. The next time round, we were involved in the second adoption and worked much more closely with the family. And to this day, they’re 24 and 25 now and they’re gorgeous and still with their parents.

Jennifer continued: “We just could not believe the children’s stories when we first started fostering. We had our eyes opened and even to this day, when I hear the stories of the young people who are coming to live with us, it never fails to shock me and I hope it never does because I do not want to become desensitised to it.”

Talking about the current children in her care, she said: “I’ve got 3 females; an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old who are siblings, and also a 14-year-old who’s identifying as transgender.”

Speaking about their experiences with gender identity, Jennifer continues: “Shaping the young individual is absolutely phenomenal, they are a wonderful conversationalist. We’ve had the most amazing conversations, we are just working on a day-to-day basis with how and who that person wants to be. And it’s a joy. I have got some training coming up on gender identity and we booked onto that the minute we saw it. So that’s coming up in a couple of weeks and it’s very exciting.”

Speaking about the training she’s received from Clifford House, she said: “The mental health training we’ve received has been absolutely phenomenal – the amount of training this year alone has been absolutely wonderful, supportive and helpful. It doesn’t matter how many years you foster, you could always learn something new.”  

Following up with the reasons why the couple chose Clifford House to foster with, Jennifer replied: “I love the social aspect. We are involved in the carer forums and participation groups. I am also a buddy/mentor for the other foster parents. It’s lovely that Clifford House runs things for the birth children too, and also the kid’s forum for the looked-after children which is fantastic. It’s a great interactive agency where we all feel part of something.”

“I love that Clifford House is so child-focused, and that was what really appealed to us.”

When asked about what advice Jennifer would give to those thinking about fostering, her immediate response was: “Go and have a cup of tea round a foster parent’s house!”

She continues: “Go to a social event of a fostering agency where there are foster families there so that they can see these children and see that they are perfectly normal children, they are just under unnecessarily difficult situations that they’ve been placed in. Because I think some people do wonder if it’s the child’s fault that they’re in care. And I’ve never found that to be the case. It’s always been external reasons – the child is just a product of that.”

When reminiscing about her favourite fostering highlights, Jennifer says: “I think when you expose a child to something that to us is perfectly normal, like being on a beach or receiving Christmas presents, or having a birthday cake. When you expose a child that’s never had that and it is their first experience, that’s a great feeling.”

“We’ve also had some absolutely wonderful achievements with some of our young people academically where they came to us with very little academic background. So many of those, including young mums who’ve returned to education.”

Jennifer continues: “It’s been very valuable to see the young people that we’ve persuaded to stop self-harming, or to stop alcohol, cigarette, or vaping abuse.”

“When you can put young people on the right track for life, it feels fantastic.”

“There’s no such thing as a bad child. There is difficult behaviour, but behaviour and the child should be kept as two separate entities.”

She concludes: “I think people just need to meet the child and see that they are lovely human beings that deserve a better life, a chance for a brighter future. I think that can inspire most people.”

If you’re interested in fostering, then speak to one of our friendly fostering advisors today. Simply complete our online enquiry form.