Heidi and Frank are Christian foster carers who are very active in their Christian community and were led to fostering through their faith. Heidi works for her local church and Frank was a secondary school teacher.
Finding out about foster care
A few years ago, Heidi and Frank were living in the North East and volunteered for a charity called Safe Families for Children, helping out on a scheme that was matching volunteers to children who needed some extra support to prevent them from being taken into care.
They were asked to support a 12-year-old boy by taking him out every Saturday. This was their first experience of looking after an older child and were surprised by how much they really loved caring for him, even when it was not an easy experience.
Talking about the experience, they said:
“He had often run off when we were supposed to be picking him up and we'd spend loads of time driving around looking for him.
But we loved doing it, we totally got how you can look at a young person that you are not physically related to, and absolutely want the best for them and give them the love and support they need.”
Deciding the ‘right time’ to foster
Before becoming a couple, Heidi and Frank had thought about fostering individually, so after marrying and then moving down to the Bradford district with long term plans to stay in the area, the couple decided it was the right time in their lives to foster.
Frank really enjoyed working with children with behavioural issues at school and Heidi had recently spent time volunteering to visit people in prison who had no-one to visit them. Most of the people she visited were care-experienced and had entered the justice system at an early age.
Heidi and Frank knew through their previous experiences that they could make the biggest difference by fostering older children.
They knew from Heidi’s experiences visiting young people in prison that being a foster carer to older children could provide the consistency and support needed and give the foster children chances and opportunities to be the best version of themselves.
“I felt for us, fostering was something we wanted to do. We were motivated by our faith; we knew it was the right thing to do."
"We hear lots of people say that they would think about fostering one day. Our message to them would be, why wait? There are children needing homes now, so if it’s something you feel called to do, just do it.
Fostering was our Plan A. We wanted to start our family as a fostering family and we have done."
Becoming foster carers
“We were approved to foster children short-term aged 8 to 13 and we started to look after 2 sisters from a BAME background.
The girls were initially supposed to go back to live with a family member, but this fell through, so we made the decision to offer them the stability of a permanent home with us.
We are now their permanent foster carers and the girls will live with us until they are ready to move out, but they will always be our family.
Since the girls moved in with us, we have had a baby, which is not the usual order of fostering! It has worked out perfectly for our family. Our older girls have thrived in our family and are loving their role as big sisters.
As parents, we provide all our children with what they deserve – kind, loving, consistent parenting. Everyone has to keep in mind that children are in care through no fault of their own. They deserve the opportunity to be part of a loving family.”
Fostering with a baby
When Heidi and Frank's family grew, it was important for the couple to communicate with their foster children about their new roles as older sisters.
Frank said: “It was a bit difficult at first but we tried to involve the girls in our planning for the baby. They would look up about being pregnant and giving birth on TikTok and then rush in to Heidi and make her put her feet up or stop carrying heavy things. They were so supportive and excited.”
When Heidi and Frank brought their baby home, their foster daughters saw how much their carers loved and nurtured the child and began to mirror this behaviour, helping to create foundation blocks that were missing from their own early lives.
Heidi said: "The girls knew they were already part of our family, so they have never felt pushed out or not part of us. Someone congratulated Frank on being a new dad, and one of the girls took exception to this, saying Frank had been a dad since the day the sisters had moved in!
The girls love being big sisters, as soon as they walk in the door at home, they want to see and hug the baby before even greeting anyone else. It’s worked out fantastically."
Fostering and faith
The Christian faith is clear that family is not just about blood relations – the circle of family is drawn much wider.
Fostering gave Heidi and Frank the opportunity to put this teaching into practice when they chose to invite children who need to be cared for into their home as members of the family.
“The Christian faith is about people being called home to Jesus through love and kindness. We want to be able to offer that love and kindness to children as well. We knew we could offer that to a child in care."
"Our faith has given us different priorities to those that some people have today. We are not interested in having a big house, a new car, or lots of holidays abroad. We feel we are called to support children.
Before we began our fostering journey, we were advised by some fellow foster carers to go to a Christian Independent Fostering Agency (IFA), but we felt this was wrong.
There are very limited resources available to Children’s Social Services and we knew we were only ever going to foster for our Local Authority because we feel that Independent Fostering Agencies take away resources that could be used directly to support children in their local communities.
What advice would you give to any prospective Christian foster carers?
“Don’t consider it, do it! Just get on with it. If you feel God has put looking after vulnerable children in your heart, have the courage to do it now.”
Fostering older children and teenagers
Heidi and Frank really enjoy looking after 2 teenagers.
They feel they are quite chilled as foster carers and so they don’t get worked up about the girls experimenting and pushing their boundaries. The girls are discovering who they are and Heidi and Frank feel it is such a privilege to be involved in helping them do that.
The girls are at an age where they are interested in lots of different things about themselves and about the wider world, so it’s exciting to be helping them learn and develop as young adults.
During the last 12 months, the girls have become very interested in the Black Lives Matter movement and how their lives fit in with #BLM, and have been exploring their identity and what it means to be Black teenagers in Britain.
Heidi and Frank have also helped the sisters experience some things for the first time that they missed out on when they were little, like learning to ride a bike, wearing wellies for the first time and jumping in muddy puddles.
Would you like to learn more about fostering in Bradford?
Foster carers change lives. If you'd like to learn more about fostering in Bradford, download an information pack today and see how you can make a difference.