AFTER taking up foster caring six years ago, sisters Jackie, 46, and Hilary, 52, both from Mirfield, inspired their niece Sarah to follow suit three years ago.
The sisters are also encouraging two other family members to become foster carers: their sister Katie and Jackie’s daughter, Chloe, 21.
Hilary’s son, 18-year-old Mackie, is already a mentor for children whose parents are foster carers.
The family’s enthusiasm stems from their own positive experiences of growing up in a large, close knit family, as Jackie explains: “Hilary and I grew up with our parents and four siblings in a modest three-bedroom terraced house in Mirfield.
“We were a typical 60s family. The thing that sticks with us is that despite not being well off we never really wanted for anything and importantly, we grew up in a happy and loving environment.
“This is what my husband John and I had been keen to pass on.
“Our interest in fostering had gone back many years, which was perhaps fuelled by the fact that John was adopted as a child.
“This inspired us to want to return the favour and to give as many vulnerable children as possible a better start in life.
“So far we’ve fostered four children and we get so much out of it. We’ve never looked back and plan to continue doing it for many years yet.”
After fostering 18 children on long and short-term placements, Hilary and her husband John have seen the positive impact foster caring has had on their family and the children they have looked after.
Hilary said: “For me, perhaps the best thing about being a foster carer is seeing children go on to be adopted or reunited with their birth parents.
“To witness the happy outcomes and the difference I’ve been able to make to a child’s life, even if for a short period, makes my job all the more worthwhile.”
Sarah, 39, who lives in Heckmondwike with her partner Lee, 45, and son, Lewis, aged 11, said: “I came into foster caring after spending 20 years working in the care industry and seeing what an amazing job my aunts were doing.
“When Lee and I began foster caring three years ago my son Lewis was eight years-old and we did consider how it would impact on him.
“Although he’d been used to seeing my aunts’ foster children at family get-togethers, we made sure we spent time explaining to him what was involved.
“There is a lot of support out there for foster carers. As well as going to my aunts for advice, I also get a lot of support from Kirklees Council’s fostering team and regularly attend a local playgroup aimed at foster carers, so I never feel like I’m on my own.
“We’re currently looking after two siblings. Initially we were looking after one child but when Kirklees Council contacted us about taking on a sibling we just couldn’t see them parted and the benefits to them have been clear to see.
“When the first sibling came to us at 11-months old, it was like having a six-month old. But with love and patience, both children have come along in leaps and bounds and for me there is nothing more rewarding.
“Lewis loves having the children in the house and they are very much part of our family.
“Every other weekend the family gets even bigger. Lee has three children from a previous relationship, so with up to six children in the house we really are one big happy family.”
To watch Jackie, Hilary and Sarah talk more about their fostering experiences, visit: www.kirklees.gov.uk/fostering