A couple from Stoke on Trent have fostered 3 teenagers and urge more people to come forward

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Gina & Michael from Stoke on Trent began their fostering journey 3 years ago, after speaking about fostering for a while they eventually knew the time was right. Gina said, “My daughter is a Social Worker for the Local Authority and was coming home every evening with stories about the lack of placements available for children in the area. This made us feel so helpless when we had the space to do something, so that was it, we started the application”.

After initially getting turned down by another fostering agency because of their dogs, Gina and Michael were determined not to give up. “We had our initial visit with Nexus Fostering and we were told our dogs were not a problem and the application was good to go ahead”. The couple have since discovered that their 3 dogs have been beneficial to the children in their care. “One of our children used to sit on the floor, stroking and talking to the dog, and she still does now, sometimes when they find it difficult to talk to an adult about their feelings it’s helpful”, Gina stated.

Gina, 54, had previously had a career in social services, spanning over 20 years, working with adults with learning disabilities. With Gina’s experience, they knew they were equipped for therapeutic fostering. Gina said, “After being approved we didn’t know what to expect, although we have found fostering a lot more complex than we thought it would be initially”.

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Over the 5 years Gina and Michael have supported 3 teenage girls, now aged 13,16 and 18 years old. The couple describe their journey so far as “frustrating, emotional, and challenging at times but so rewarding; when you first meet the children and see the difference in them after a couple of months, there is nothing as rewarding as that. For instance, when one of our girls moved in, she was so nervous and anxious after what she had been through, but she’s a different person now and has told me she’s not leaving us”.

Gina & MichaelGina & Michael
Gina & Michael

Before meeting their first young person Gina said, “From the referral, our first young person on paper had difficult behaviours and had rebelled against her previous carers. Michael was nervous but she was just a typical teenager. Before she moved in, we went to meet her, went out for the day and for a meal to help us get to know each other. On the first night, we showed her the kitchen and I said she could help herself with snacks and drinks, it took her a few days to adjust but she settled in well. She even changed her surname to ours within 6 months, calls me mum to her teachers. She is part of the family and always will be”.

Now aged 18 years old, she has moved out of Gina and Michaels’s home into independence, Gina stated, “We have a great relationship and I still speak to her every day. She is doing so well, received excellent grades in her GCSE’s and is now studying at college while working with my husband. When she moved into her flat, we all helped decorate and all the family pitched in, it was a family affair”.

Gina and Michael have 4 birth children between them, and they all have good relationships with the young people in placement. “The girls see my two daughters every week and have a close relationship. We treat the children in our care as if they are our own. The only house rules we have is that they must keep their rooms tidy, do their washing and treat everyone with respect”.

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Gina and Micheal welcomed their second young person in 2022, aged 14 at the time. Gina said, “It was initially an emergency placement for four weeks. She needed serious support and attention due to emotional upset, and we knew therapy was a must. She is now settled and becoming a wonderful independent young lady”. Michael said, “She has made amazing progress and has passed her exams, which she didn’t think she would do, and is now studying horticulture and animals at college and is getting distinctions and merits. She travels on the bus on her own and its long days. Twelve months ago, she wouldn’t have done that, her confidence has grown so much, she’s our little superstar”.

The children in Gina and Michael’s care have been placed under different care packages; from Nexus Fostering standard placement to Care Plus and Nexus 360. Gina spoke about the support they have received, “Nexus Fostering is very supportive; they offer great support and training, and there is someone always available if needed. Barbara, our local Clinician, is amazing. She arranged equine therapy for one of our girls as she wasn’t responding to online therapy or CAMHS. The therapy involves talking to a therapist while being around animals, which has helped immensely with some of the challenging behaviours”.

Gina and Michael urge anyone to consider fostering “the rewards far outweigh the challenges and the difference you can make in a child’s life is incredible”.

If you have been inspired by Gina and Michaels’s fostering journey and think you could provide a safe and stable home for a child or young person in Staffordshire, then contact us to start your journey with Nexus Fostering today at:

01952 916 002,visit www.nexusfostering.co.uk, or visit our local office at Montford House Suite 1 & 2, St Georges Court, Donnington, Telford, TF2 7AS