How foster carers can give children in North Lincolnshire a life they wouldn't otherwise have
Foster care services in North Lincolnshire have been graded outstanding by Ofsted inspectors – meaning they are among the best in the country.
The services were given top marks in every category. The authority has launched a new foster care charter to reinforce its commitment.
Currently there are 111 foster carers in North Lincolnshire, caring for 140 children.
Sue Davies, 62, first became a foster carer 12 years ago after retiring as a secondary school teacher.
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She said: "All four of my children had grown up and left home, but a friend suggested foster care as a good thing to do.
"I had already worked on a behavioural unit for expelled children, so thought I would be prepared for any situation that foster care could throw up.
"I decided to do it for the children, because it is a way of giving them a life that they wouldn't otherwise have.
"I feel as though I am contributing to make their lives better and that is why I have done it for so many years.
"Since starting I have had 39 foster children stay with me, and I currently have a 12-year-old girl I am fostering."
Sue's daughter, Jo Smeaton, 34, qualified as a foster carer last year and is following in her mother's footsteps.
Jo said: "I had always seen it since mum started fostering and my two children have grown up alongside it too. It is something mum and I talked about for a while, especially since I am a teacher as well.
"My husband is the primary carer for our two foster children, who are five years old and four months old. Because our own children, who are 10 and 8, have been used to seeing foster children in the past, they always understand what is happening.
"We have to be flexible with caring for all four children and are always sure to treat the foster children in exactly the way we would treat our own."
Pete Grix, 48, and his wife Jane, 50, were approved as foster carers seven weeks ago. The couple, from Scunthorpe, got involved after seeing a documentary about children in care.
Pete said: "We have five boys of our own who have grown up and left home, as well as 11 grandchildren. Our plan was always to relax once they had left home, but seeing this documentary made us decide that foster care was something we definitely wanted to do.
"We have a four-year-old girl who is an absolute superstar."
Eric Johnson, 55, and his wife Wendy, 60, have been foster carers for nearly six years. The couple, from Ashby, have cared for 27 foster children during that time and currently have a 14-year-old, a three-year-old and a nine-month-old child in their care.
Eric said: "Wendy and I had two children each from previous marriages, but they had all grown up and foster care sounded like a good idea to us.
"Initially we started with respite fostering, which meant we fostered children for a very short period. Gradually that became permanent and it has been such a great experience.
"Foster care is a much better option for young people than a residential home because it is a more personal experience. They become involved in a family routine and learn better life skills that they can make use of."
North Lincolnshire Council is currently proposing to bring together the three children's homes in the region at a new £1.2 million site on Scotter Road South in Scunthorpe.
The children's homes at Poplar Drive in Brigg and Fieldside in Epworth are in the process of closing, with The Grove in Scawby due to stay open until the new building is complete.
The move is part of an increased desire to put children in foster care rather than residential homes and the local authority is keen for more families to come forward.
Tracey Eaden, service manager for fostering services at North Lincolnshire Council, has worked with looked-after children for 14 years.
"Previously we were satisfactory so this is a massive improvement for us.
"The carers, staff and young people can all be very proud of themselves, especially the fostering services team which has worked very hard to improve.
"I put a lot of the improvement down to the amount of investment by the local authority in foster care.
"We have a team of 15, including myself, and I would love for that to increase. With expansion there will be even more scope to develop fostering services further."
If you would like to get involved with being a foster carer, call the council's fostering team on 01724 297024.