The thought of not wanting your own baby is unimaginable to most – but it’s a sad reality and that’s when foster carers like Wendy Crowther kick into action.
Since Wendy started fostering three years ago, the 62-year-old former pharmaceutical production worker, from Highworth, has looked after several babies who have been given up for adoption for various reasons. She is sharing her experience during Foster Care Fortnight to help raise awareness of the need for more carers.
She said: “It breaks your heart, particularly if the babies have been harmed. One baby’s parents were heroin addicts, so the baby was hooked too and had to be weaned off morphine. Another was born in A&E, weighing just 4.5lbs, because the mother didn’t know or refused to accept she was pregnant. But amidst the despair, there’s always hope – these babies have gone to such loving homes and I’m so proud to have played a part in that.”
Although Wendy has no children of her own, she has always been surrounded by them and had spells of working as a nanny.
She said: “I had two step-children, one niece and two nephews and I’m a nan of seven, so kids have always been a big part of my life. When I left school at 15, I was a nanny – or mother’s help, as they were once called, in posh houses in Cheltenham. I then went to look after three children on a farm. So I know what babies need and it’s wonderful putting those skills back into use.”
But Wendy never planned to become a foster carer – it happened after her husband and mother passed away.
She said: “Bob wasn’t keen on the idea of fostering or adoption but after my mum went I was very fortunate to be able to pay off my mortgage and take stock of life. I gave up my job making tablets, which was 12-hour shifts and very repetitive, but soon got bored. That’s what made me realise I had so much more to give and that I just wasn’t suited to a quiet, empty house. Fostering changed all that and I couldn’t be happier.”
At first Wendy feared she was too old and that not being a mother herself might be a barrier.
“I was thrilled to learn that my age and lack of children didn’t matter. Being approved as a foster carer felt like such a wonderful achievement and boosted my confidence no end. I’ve always been good with children and now could put it into practice again, giving those less fortunate all the care and attention they deserve.”
Wendy’s first placement was a three-year-old boy, who was used to being cooped up indoors in front of the TV.
“He knew no boundaries and just wanted to eat watching television. But I got him into a better routine with bath time and story time before bed and he made brilliant progress. Although he could be a handful, he gave the best cuddles ever and that made up for it all.”
Her previous challenge was a three-week old baby, who she nurtured for seven months before he was adopted.
She said: “The bond started at hospital in the special care baby unit because he was so weak and I could only visit. His birth parents had drug and alcohol addictions. They couldn’t give up the addiction, so they had to give up the baby. I built up a brilliant bond with the baby, who went on to live with a wonderful couple, who will give him a good start in life.”
Wendy often stays in touch with the adoptive parents and loves to see the babies she fostered thrive in their new homes.
“I went to an adoption party the other week with a couple who have such a lot of love and life skills to give – the little boy looked so happy and healthy. Being part of giving these children a second chance is such a special thing. It’s all about them having a better life and you feel like you’re doing something really good. I can’t think of anything more worthwhile.”
The council is looking for foster carers of all ages for children of all ages, with placements lasting anything from a few days to many years. It needs 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 email@example.com