We speak to Gina and Pete about their 30 year long fostering career and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their family.
Gina and Pete began their fostering journey in 1970 with Kirklees Council, before joining Bradford Council as foster carers in 1989. Hear their incredible story:
Finding out about fostering
During the 1969 Christmas season, Gina remembers seeing an advertisement on the television promoting foster care with the tagline ‘foster a child for Christmas’.
Gina and Pete knew that ‘foster a child for Christmas’ didn’t mean they would be able to look after a child straight away, but they were moved by what they saw on television and decided to approach Kirklees Council about becoming foster parents.
Gina used to babysit for a foster carer, so she knew fostered children and had looked after them already, albeit for just a couple of hours at a time.
Little did they know that their fostering journey was just beginning...
Becoming foster carers and adoptive parents
During the fostering application process, Gina and Pete had a daughter and then later that year, started looking after their first foster child.
Gina and Pete went on to have a son in 1971 and began fostering in earnest later that same year.
In 1977, they started looking after a little boy with Down Syndrome, closely followed by a little girl who also had Down Syndrome.
Gina and Pete fell completely in love with the children and moved to adopting them both in 1980; closely followed with adopting a further two children with Down Syndrome in 1984 and 1986.
“Every child is different and they all bring their own joys and challenges and need to be helped and supported in their own ways. When you get that first smile or hug, it just makes everything else worthwhile."
Joining Bradford Fostering
After taking a break for a few years to give their new family time to settle and get used to being a family of 8, Gina and Pete looked to return to fostering but were told no by their local council.
They then applied to Bradford Fostering in 1989 - and the rest is history!
Gina and Pete fostered two sisters as short break carers (also known as respite carers), who then moved in with the couple full-time when their previous full-time foster placement broke down.
Gina and Pete later adopted the sisters, who are now grown up and married with children of their own.
Now, Gina and Pete provide a mix of short and long-term fostering for children and young people in the Bradford district.
What's the difference between short-term and long-term foster carers?
Short-term foster carers look after children until the Courts decide who the child will live with for the rest of their childhood. Long-term or permanent foster carers look after a child or young person until they are ready to move out and live independently as adults.
What is it like being a foster carer?
We asked Gina about her experiences as a foster carer. She said:
“Fostering is different to being a mum. There are challenges you don’t face as a parent – you have to prepare the children and help them to move on to their permanent family, whether that’s back to mum or dad, or to new adoptive parents or even to move to other foster families.
It can be hard, because you might not always agree with the decision that has been made by the Courts and you can sometimes feel you know it’s not going to work, but you still have to do it and prepare the children to move as directed as positively as you possibly can.
Every child is different and they all bring their own joys and challenges and need to be helped and supported in their own ways. When you get that first smile or hug, it just makes everything else worthwhile."
"It’s important that children know that somebody wants them and loves them.”