A foster carer from Barnstaple whose life was transformed by taking a young person into her home has called for other younger people to consider a career in fostering.
Suzanne Holland, aged 34, was spurred to become a foster carer following the loss of her mum to cancer.
The former nursery manager and support worker for adults with learning disabilities joined Five Rivers Child Care – an independent fostering provider and social enterprise which has an office in Exeter - in 2017.
Working with children at her local nursery alongside caring for adults with additional needs for more than a decade led Suzanne to believe she could extend her skills outside the nursery and residential homes to take on a new challenge and provide a safe and loving home to those in need.
Five Rivers Child Care is encouraging younger people to think about fostering as more and more children and young people are in need of a loving and safe home every day.
The company says fostering provides the job security and stability many young people are looking for alongside flexibility.
Shortly after signing up, young Rosalee (not her real name), came into Suzanne’s life and she became her full-time foster carer, meaning the teenager, now aged 14, will stay with her until it is time to make her own way as an adult.
Suzanne said: “After mum passed, I felt like I needed a new purpose and something to motivate me to get me out of the slump I was in.
“I got a call from my social worker who said she had a young girl in need of a long-term home. And although this was something I was hoping for, it was daunting at first getting used to having someone around all the time.
“Slowly, Rosalee and I got into a routine and found our common interests like cooking and arts and crafts.”
A few short weeks after Rosalee first moved in, the pair grew quite close after finding out Suzanne’s dad was diagnosed with cancer – only four years after losing her mum to the same disease.
Suzanne said: “It was a really difficult time for me when I found out about my dad’s diagnosis. Because Rosalee had only been with me for less than a month, I thought it would best for both of us that I was open and honest with her on how we would get through this together and I would continue to support and care for her throughout everything.”
Together the pair cared for Suzanne’s father for four months and during that time, Rosalee began to develop a very special relationship of her own with him and he thought of her as his own granddaughter.
In June of 2018 and after a battle against cancer, Suzanne’s father peacefully passed away. She said: “One of the last things my dad said to me was to never give up on Rosalee ever, and I made that promise to him.”
People from all walks of life can be eligible to become a foster carer, but they must be over the age of 21 and have a private and furnished bedroom for each child, with some exceptions for siblings.
Single people, co-habiting couples, same sex couples and people living in rented accommodation can also become foster carers.
Suzanne said: “There’s this misconception that fostering is something for older people or for people who have brought their own children up. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I think because I am a younger mum, I can relate more to Rosalee because it wasn’t long ago, I was going through similar challenges at school or with friends.
“Of course, fostering has its challenging moments, things aren’t easy all the time. For me, it’s all about having the right support around me through friends, family or my social worker, and being equipped with the right tools to help Rosalee in the best way I can.
“Regardless of age, sex, gender, race or religion, fostering is all about the compassion and care you can give to a child.”
For more information on foster care, contact Five Rivers Child Care on 0345 266 0272 or visit www.five-rives.org .