18 May, 10am to 2pm: Fleet Library;
21 May, 4pm to 7pm: Aldershot Library.
"My name is Debbie. I am aged 51 years.
"We decided to foster once our own children had grown up and become more independent. We live on a farm, had a spare room and decided to apply in 2017. We had an amazing assessor who supported us all through the whole process which took around six months. It was sometimes tough revealing a lot about ourselves, but it was all handled sensitively and positively.
"When we went to the fostering panel to be approved, it all started to feel like it was really happening. We were asked a lot of questions and then when we were told we were approved it seemed like the long journey was finally over. We were all so excited, and I couldn’t wait for our first children.
"Soon we had our first two children for respite care. They were aged 18 months and five years old. They came having not met us before. I was surprised how they settled so well. When they went to bed on their first night, I felt sad for them and I was determined that they’d have a happy time. We filled their memories with fun on the farm, and after only five days we said goodbye to them… we would need to toughen up!
"We were then given our first short term placement, a baby. When I went to collect him from hospital I had mixed emotions. I was so excited to take him home to show my family who were waiting eagerly to meet him but also sad for his mother who had just said goodbye to him.
He has brought joy to us all
"I’ve loved every minute looking after this baby. Our family have embraced him and he has brought joy to us all. I have enjoyed being part of the team helping him and attending meetings and have met with his mother at appointments too which has been good. Maintaining a non-judgemental approach to his parent has helped us to build a good relationship for him.
"Throughout his time with us we have looked after five other children, one child placed for a month, owing to an emergency, and four children for anything between one to three weeks of respite.
"The most fun part has been meeting so many children and giving them some happy memories of their time with us. Watching my family welcome and enjoy the children has been amazing. There have been great moments, like when my two grown-up sons played skipping games with the children or seeing my daughter help with and care for the children. We are a great team! My husband has a lovely bond with the baby and he is very popular with all the children, taking them safely on regular tractor rides.
"The toughest part to deal with has been learning the stories behind the children and one or two of the children have struggled, but our training prepared us well for the different behaviours. I have always remembered that their behaviours are for reasons we may or may not know. When I have been alone, I have shed a few tears for some of the children. They are amazing.
It's okay to grieve when a child leaves
"We are currently preparing for the baby in our care to move on to be adopted. Without the support and advice of our social worker and a group of foster carer friends we have made, it would be harder than it is. It will be sad to say goodbye, and we know it is okay to grieve when a child leaves. Having met his new family, we couldn’t be happier for them and for him.
"Flexibility is important for foster carers, and all members of our immediate family need to be supportive for it to be successful. Honesty and being willing to learn is also important. It can be tough at times emotionally, but help is there for you from the Local Authority, as well as from other foster carers who are willing to share their stories and support each other.
"This is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and I genuinely feel privileged to have met the most amazing and resilient little people."