When Anthony and Michael help to pack the car of a happy 17-year-old ready for the start of university life next month, it will be an especially emotional farewell. That’s because they have been his devoted foster carers for the past four and half years and cannot quite believe how much he has grown up.
Anthony Purcell, aged 38, said: “He has changed so much and really matured. There’s such an exciting, promising future ahead of him and it feels very special to have played a part in creating that. We’ve all become so close, I doubt we’ll be able to stop crying when he sets off – it’s bad enough just thinking about it now.”
Anthony has been together with Michael for the past nine years. They both enjoyed spending time with children and felt they wanted to help someone less fortunate than themselves.
He said: “We couldn’t have our own kids obviously, but still had this urge to nurture and care for someone. At first we didn’t know whether being gay would stop us being eligible to foster but after enquiring, we soon realised this wasn’t the case. It has never been an issue and we’ve always felt so welcome and supported.”
Another concern for the couple, who live in Ferndale, was whether they could both continue working full-time, which again didn’t prove a problem at all.
Anthony, Marketing Co-ordinator at inSwindon, said: “Our employers have been very supportive in allowing us to attend certain meetings, but it’s just like with all children – you learn to juggle things. Teenagers want their own space too, so they don’t need you around all the time.”
Although the first few days were nerve-wracking, that soon passed and they developed a strong rapport.
He said: “It was daunting at first – you worry if you will get on, but the matching process is very good and we knew things were going to work out just fine. Our Border Collie, Indy was a great way to break the ice and build that bond. We still all go out for walks together.”
They soon realised just what a fortunate upbringing they had experienced and were determined to share that.
Anthony said: “He had never been abroad on holiday before so seeing that gleeful excitement about us taking him was just wonderful. It’s lovely to be able to help someone feel wanted and special.”
Over the years, the couple have also passed on all sorts of skills such as cooking and budgeting – all of which will come in handy, when he starts life as a student. His career prospects are looking equally bright.
Anthony said: “My partner is a teacher for the Civil Service, so he has always been good at helping encourage him academically. He did very well in his exams and is off to study aeronautical engineering. We’re both so proud – the sky really is the limit for him now.”
As with all children, they never fully leave home and the couple are already looking forward to having him back for term holidays and hearing all about his new life.
He said: “He will no doubt be calling when he’s running low on cash and wants taking out for lunch. Although we’ll miss having him around so much, it’s also so satisfying to see him spread his wings. Fostering has definitely enriched our lives and been such a rewarding journey – I would highly recommend it.”
Swindon Borough Council’s Fostering Recruitment team will be on hand to answer questions and provide information in the community tent at Swindon & Wiltshire Pride, in Town Gardens, on Saturday, 20 August from midday onward.
The Council needs foster carers for children of all ages with placements lasting anything from a few days to many years. Sexuality, age, marital status and whether or not applicants have children of their own are no barriers to fostering.
Carers receive payment and allowances to help cover their time and expenses, including extra money to help with the cost of holidays, birthdays and Christmas.