Her children had grown up and left the nest, leaving her with a house ideal for fostering children and young people and the young people she currently cares for have been part of the family for more than 10 years. The eldest is now 18, but has found a home for life in Debbie and Nick’s family.
One of the things that Debbie has noticed is that although there are similarities to raising her own children, fostering has presented different challenges due to the history of the children she cares for.
Debbie said: “I'm quite protective and I've been called a lioness because I will fight for my children. It was obviously different in the beginning because I knew my children from birth and I knew what they’d been through.
“But my foster children grew up with alcoholic parents and the trauma and abuse they’ve been through meant that it was a learning curve to understand how best to care for them.”
Debbie has been supported every step of the way on her fostering journey, and her foster children really are now just like her own. Debbie said: “My daughter just accepts Ellie as her sister. Even though there's a massive age gap because my daughter's forty this year, she thinks of Ellie as her little sister. She never refers to her as her ‘foster sister’ - it’s always ‘my sister’.”
The most rewarding part for Debbie has been seeing Ellie develop into an independent person, who is learning she doesn’t need approval from everyone else.
“It was difficult for Ellie at school because she didn’t want anyone to know her care story and the school was fantastic, but her brother was very open about it.
“Ellie became quite withdrawn until she reached secondary school which is where she really came into her own. I genuinely believe in ‘nurture over nature’. It’s completely true in Ellie’s case. You can make all the difference in their outlook on life.”
There have been elements of foster care that Debbie has found hard, particularly coming to terms with some of the things that happened to the children before they came to live with her.
“When you get to know some of the trauma they’ve been through, I could sit and cry for both of them. I feel so privileged that they have been able to open up and disclose some of the things that they went through.”
Orange Grove provides vital support and training for foster parents and also children in foster care. The team of highly experienced and qualified professionals focus on building relationships between parents and children, as well as a choice of training programmes and a mentor with experience in foster care.
Debbie believes there is work to be done in educating people about what foster care involves and how rewarding it can be.
She said: “One of the things that I had to learn is not to always take things personally. Because you want the best for these children, sometimes you can get a little bit offended when it doesn’t turn out exactly as you wanted.
“But to highlight the benefits you get from fostering is just as important. Campaigns like the John Lewis Christmas one are just wonderful.”
When asked what advice Debbie would give to those looking to foster in the future, she urged people to do their research and understand there will be good and bad days.
“You have got to really look into it and know both the positives and the negatives. If you’ve got family that you can get on board, it will really help you.
We discussed it with the family and every one of them said ‘we're with you, we're behind you’ and that was a great encouragement. It made us think we were ready to do it. And we honestly haven’t looked back since.”
October 10 2023
Kathy's Fostering Story
Retired teacher, Kathy, shares her fostering journey so far and how she feels privileged to be able to continue to make a difference in the lives of young people.
October 2 2023
Annette's Fostering Story
Over a 15-year fostering career, Annette has supported more than 20 children and became a 'Special Guardian' for three of them.
May 22 2023
Kem and Eric's Story
Kem and Eric have been fostering for over 13 years. In our latest campaign, we hear from the couple and some of the young people whose lives have been touched by this extraordinary family.
September 27 2022
Sarah's Fostering Journey
Sarah shares how empty nest syndrome was the motivation she needed to become a foster parent and the incredible journey she's been on ever since.
June 21 2022
Celebrating 15 Years of Fostering
Yorkshire foster parents, Maggie and Allen, have recently celebrated their 15-year fostering anniversary. Today, they share some of the highlights of their fostering career.