Claudia and Her Dozen Foster Kids

Celebrating Black History Month 

While Black History Month began in the United States of America in the 1920s, it was first celebrated in the UK in 1987, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean, and happens every October. 

As we commemorate Black History Month, it is essential to recognise and celebrate the incredible individuals who have made a profound impact on the lives of others. Claudia, a foster carer with Progress, is one such remarkable individual whose journey into foster caring has not only transformed the lives of countless children but also shattered preconceived notions about who can be a foster parent. 

Claudia’s journey into foster care began with her profound love for children. From a young age, she was the go-to person for her cousins and their children, and children always seemed to gravitate toward her. In her own words, she shares, “I love kids. Ever since I was young, all my cousins would always bring their kids over, and the kids always basically love me and they just stick to me.” 

However, her official journey as a foster carer began while she was working as the Deputy Manager for a residential home catering to individuals with learning disabilities and mental health challenges. Claudia recalls this pivotal moment: “My journey started when I was a manager, Deputy Manager for a residential home for people with learning disability and challenges with mental health. I worked there for 11 years.” 

During her tenure at the residential home, Claudia encountered two young ladies who were struggling with severe self-harm and emotional issues. They made a heartfelt plea to Claudia, suggesting she adopt them or provide them with a nurturing home. Claudia shares their request, saying, “One of them said to me, ‘Why don’t you adopt me? I don’t have a place to live.’ And it resonated with me.” 

Claudia’s next step toward foster care began when her daughter left for university, leaving her with a three-bedroom house. Claudia’s response to this newfound space and her love for children was straightforward: “I was online looking for jobs, and I saw a pop-up about fostering. I just put in a message to say, ‘Can you tell me more about this? I always have kids. I’m a mother, I would say I am a carer, a giver and I’ve been working in care settings for kids or teens.” 

Over the years, Claudia has cared for numerous children, many of whom have stayed in contact with her and seek her guidance and support. In her own words, she acknowledges the lasting impact of her work: “I’ve got 12 of them, still in contact with a couple of them. They keep me busy, keep me occupied. I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t change it for the world.” 

When asked about her remarkable success as a foster carer, Claudia humbly attributes it to her upbringing and values. She cites her mother as a significant influence: “My mom has always taken in relatives’ children and looked after them. And even after we left, she was still having kids at the house. Maybe that’s something because I’ve grown up in that sort of environment.” 

Claudia’s dedication to fostering is even more impressive when considering her academic pursuits. She managed to complete her studies, obtaining a degree in psychology while working two days a week at a university. In her own words, Claudia explains her drive: “I like to stay busy because once your mind is busy, you’re learning, and I think you’re never too old to learn.” 

Claudia’s journey as a foster carer is a testament to the power of a single individual’s dedication and love to make a difference in the lives of children in need.  

As we celebrate Black History Month, her story serves as an inspiration to challenge stereotypes, embrace diversity, and open our hearts and homes to those who need it most. Claudia has not only given countless children a better future but has also enriched our collective history with her remarkable journey as a single Black foster carer.

Inquire about foster caring today, click here.

Donna’s Fostering Story

Donna shares how her fostering journey has been since her approval. It gives a perfect insight into the challenges that fostering may bring to a new foster carer and that of the resilience and supportive team we have here at Progress.

“My first year was quite a challenge in some respects, although very rewarding at the same time. I’m glad I made the decision to foster, and over time I have learnt every placement and person is different and will have their own unique set of circumstances.

Following my approval in May 2020, within 48 hours, I had agreed to a Parent & Child type placement, whereby a young mum and her baby came to stay with me on a temporary basis. I’m now on to my 3rd placement and realise fostering is a huge learning curve. The training, while invaluable, cannot prepare you for the “real thing”, and you continue to learn with each person. I have made some mistakes but feel I have learnt from them, and I’m continually developing myself as a foster carer with the support of my social worker.

I really didn’t have many expectations when applying to become a foster carer; I was just really interested in wanting to help and give something back in some way.  I would say the biggest challenge I have faced is adapting to someone who can be confrontational, although you understand the reasons behind the behaviour, it still comes as quite a shock when confronted with it and can be quite upsetting when it’s in your own home, having said that I have a fabulous supervising social worker who has literally been my rock from day one and the therapeutic support available to us.

I am really pleased to be part of Progress, and I can’t fault them in any way; every member of staff I have met or spoken with over the last 12 + months has been great, and I feel very supported in my role as a carer”.

Progress foster carers are never alone. Together, we keep building those bridges, Donna.

Why I foster: Helen

In a new series of interviews we have asked Progress foster carers why they foster care and how fostering changes lives.

Helen has been caring for James and Perry with her husband, Henry. This is her story.

When you have a child of your own, you realise what a positive influence they can have on your life. My husband Henry and I had reached a stage in our lives where we did not want any more children of our own, but we did want to support and care for a child that was less fortunate than others.

Whether it is for a week or full-time, if Henry and I could change a child’s life for the better, we would.

Some of my work colleagues had experience as foster carers. The more they spoke to me about how fostering works, the more it seemed like a great way to help children.

When you start fostering, prepare for your life to change.

You will go through a lot emotionally and looking after someone else’s child will take a lot out of you. In some cases, you may only have a short time with a child or young person, maybe a year or two so it may feel like everything is happening quickly.

However, you must remember that the time you are in their lives, could be an important period for them. It is for this reason that Henry and I put all our energies into ensuring we can make a difference.

When Progress told us about James and Perry we wanted to help. The boys did not have the structure of regular family life, so we expected things to be a little chaotic. In all honestly, they were just two sweet little boys that needed love and attention.

Henry and I were nervous about the rules we wanted to implement in the house. We did not want them to feel intimidated but knew that the rules would stand all of us in good stead.

James and Perry have been fantastic at going along with everything. The boys say please and thank you and eat three meals a day, as opposed to the junk food they ate before they arrived. Routines like brushing their teeth and going to bed at set times, have helped them to live a normal life.

As a couple, Henry and I appreciate having a network of other foster carers. Progress hosts the “Voice of Progress”, a monthly club for foster children to get together and participate in fun activities. The foster carers tag along and use it as a chance to talk to each other about our experiences.

There is no set rule book for what makes a good foster carer. We all bring our uniqueness to any given situation. Having some life experience and being a caring and patient person helps.

Fostering is my way of making a positive difference in the world. Henry and I feel that giving a child the chance to succeed in life is not only good for them, but for everyone in society. If you can offer a child a home, along with the help and support they need at a difficult time in their life, then you must get involved.

If this story resonates with you, perhaps you could be the next carer to make a positive difference in children’s lives. Get in touch to find out more about being a foster carer.

A Foster Carer’s Story: Pauline

It was late one evening when Sasha arrived. She was just a year-old, dressed in a pink padded coat and carried through the door. ‘She looked so scared and dirty,’ says Pauline who was there to open her heart and give her a home.

Later as Pauline gently placed her in a warm bubble bath, Sasha smiled at her for the first time. For the next few months, she clung to Pauline, never wanting to be put down. Pauline was determined to give her as much love as she needed.

She bought her a pink coat and pink blankets, and at night she read stories and sang songs to her as she drifted off to sleep.

‘I just wanted to look after and protect her. She was absolutely beautiful,’ Pauline recalls.

For almost a year Sasha slept in the corner of the cot on all fours, and Pauline slept in a bed in the same room watching over her. Then one morning she found Sasha sleeping on her back, it was almost as if she had finally relaxed.

Gradually as she grew, Sasha became more confident, playing in the garden or running around in the park. When she was three, she was adopted by Pauline’s sister, and she became Pauline’s niece. There was a happy ending for all of them.

Pauline started fostering seven years ago and has already welcomed five children into her home.

She knew it was what she wanted to do when she was a young child, brought up by her grandmother in the countryside in Jamaica. ‘I used to say that I was going to have a child from every nation,’ she says.

When the first of her two daughters went to university, there was space in Pauline’s three bedroom house, so she gave up her job as a beautician to become a foster carer.

‘I wanted to give a child a chance, to give them support and love,’ she says.

She admits she has a big heart, that she is kind and loving and caring.

Pauline says the rewards come from seeing a child gaining in confidence ‘knowing they can be loved and there’s nothing wrong with them,’ she says.

When Pauline first met Tom, he was less than a year old and being looked after in a children’s hospital. Every day for months she went to visit him before he was allowed to come and live with her. ‘From the time he came home he was happy,’ she says. ‘It was just as if he had been here all the time.’

Tom suffered from a condition which meant he had to wear a mask and was attached to monitors when he was asleep because of the risk he could stop breathing. Carers came into her home to stay with him during the night, and at times Pauline stayed with him instead, sitting in a chair next to his bed or lying in a sleeping bag on the floor.

‘He was always loving,’ says Pauline. He called her ‘mum’ and ran up to sit on her knee if she was watching television. It was hard for her when he left to be adopted two years later, but Pauline knew he was going to a good home with people who loved him. He was adopted by two nurses. ‘I was happy for him,’ she says. ‘I loved him to bits.’

Another little boy arrived when he was six, and Pauline had a big party for his seventh birthday. She hired a room in a soft play centre and gave him a “Spiderman” party so that he could celebrate with his school friends. ‘He had never had a birthday party,’ says Pauline. ‘He said it was the best day of his life.’

Pauline, who is a Fostering Ambassador for Progress, is keen to encourage other people to become foster carers.  ‘I think everyone should have a home,’ she says.  ‘There are loads of children out there that need help, and I can’t have them all.’

If this story resonates with you, perhaps you could be the next carer to make a positive difference in children’s lives. Get in touch to find out more about being a foster carer.

A Foster Carer’s Story: Gail


Fostering with Progress
Gail with Tina (Progress Operations Manager)

Foster carers are ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Opening up your home and heart to children is not easy, but as Gail explains, it’s a rewarding experience.

Gail, a foster carer, was in the kitchen when Amy received the telephone call to say she had passed her GCSEs.  Amy was a teenager who had no confidence in herself. ‘Why do you bother with me?’ she used to say. ‘I’m useless. I’m no good.’  But Gail believed in her. And she was there to throw her arms around Amy when she heard the good news. ‘She couldn’t believe that she had achieved those results. I was just pleased for her,’ Gail recalls. ‘And that’s when you think this is worth it.’

Gail, who is divorced, has been fostering as a single parent since 2010. She enjoys long term fostering and looking after teenagers. Her house was always full of teenagers as her own two children were growing up and when they left to go to university it seemed quiet. Gail, who also used to run the local Brownies, decided to start fostering.

‘I have a big house,’ she says. ‘I felt quite privileged and I wanted to put something back. I like to be busy and to have people around me.

‘Sometimes I find it hard work and a challenge but I also find it a pleasure. It enriches your life.’

She says it is the challenges that make fostering worthwhile and also the difference she can make to the lives of young people.

‘They come with all their worldly goods, and sometimes it is not a lot, which is quite sad,’ she says.

One twelve-year-old boy was smoking 60 cigarettes a day and wouldn’t go to school when Gail gave him a home.  ‘He had tantrum after tantrum,’ she recalls. ‘He was quite a challenge.’ Gail showed him that she cared. ‘I would sit for hours talking to him,’ she says. He had a hood over his head and his arms folded. ‘When he left here he wasn’t smoking, he was a smart young man, he was at college, he was doing really well, and he was really proud of himself that he had turned his life around’ she says.

Gail knows that Progress are always on the other end of the phone, day or night, whenever she needs help. She has received training and been on the courses they offer and also goes to regular support group meetings where she meets other foster carers.

She has held open days at her house to recruit more foster carers. ‘I believe it is important,’ she says.  ‘I think it is better for a child to be brought up in a family environment. There are lots of children who need homes.

‘I want to recruit foster carers who want to give a child a home, not just a room to live in.

‘I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t fostering. It has given me purpose.’

In the evening Gail and the two teenagers who live with her eat together in the kitchen at the heart of her home. Amy gives her a goodnight kiss every night and says: ‘love you.’ Sarah gave her a card with a heartfelt message inside: ‘Thank you for everything you do.’ Gail cried when she read it.

She tells the girls: ‘I know I am not your mum but you are part of my family.’

‘I love them dearly,’ she says.

If this story resonates with you, perhaps you could be the next carer to make a positive difference in children’s lives. Get in touch to find out more about being a foster carer.