Ira Muir had never contemplated fostering until a chance comment opened up a whole new vocation, which she finds more rewarding than ever.
The 56-year-old, from Swindon town centre, used to work at a drop-in centre which helped refugees and led to her taking a teenage boy under her wing. She is sharing her experience during Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from 16 – 29 May, in the hope others may choose to follow in her footsteps.
Ira said: “Abdul had no family and he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder having witnessed terrible atrocities in his homeland Sudan. He had to learn English from scratch and was making great progress. We were discussing his next steps and I just casually said he could live with me because I was living on my own and had a spare room. That marked the start of my fostering journey, which has changed my life in such a wonderful way.
After staying with Ira for four years the 19-year-old has since spread his own wings and is now living independently in Old Town.
She said: “He is studying at college and has come so far. We talk to each other every day – he’s so lovely and still calls me mum. I feel so privileged to have played a part in his life and helped someone who was once so vulnerable become a young man with everything going for him.”
Abdul said: “Ira is fantastic – it feels like she’s my real mum because she’s so gentle and kind. She is so special to me, I can’t even say how much.”
With her two grown-up daughters having flown the nest, Ira didn’t want the house to be empty and realised how fulfilled fostering made her feel.
She said: “It opened my eyes to the fact that there are so many children out there who, through no fault of their own, are going through a hard time and need nurturing. I had never thought about it before but after this amazing experience I knew it was what I wanted to do.
Ira is currently looking after two girls, aged 15 and 12, who are similarly turning their lives around.
“The oldest is excelling in every sense of the word – her grades have shot up and she’s thinking about which University she wants to go to. She’s involved with Youth Parliament and is just such an inspiring person. I’m so proud and try to help with practical things, so she can concentrate on her studies and also have fun with her friends,” she said.
“The younger one has also settled in very well. I didn’t realise how much she had warmed to me until she gave this hugely moving testimony at the Children In Care awards ceremony. She said I was always there with a cuddle and good advice, which brought a tear to my eye. It’s nice to know that what you do is noticed and means a lot to them. That’s why I do it – they really need your help and deep down are very grateful.”
The council needs foster carers of all ages for children of all ages, with placements lasting anything from a few days to many years. It is looking for foster carers from a range of ethnic backgrounds to reflect Swindon’s diverse population and the needs of children coming into care. Marital status, sexuality, age and whether you have children or not are no barriers to fostering. Carers receive payment and allowances to help cover their time and expenses, as well as free ongoing training to develop existing and acquire new skills.
To find out more or register interest, get in contact by calling: (01793) 464329 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org