Superstar foster carers Ruth and Phil Bird have welcomed hundreds of children into their home over the years.
The couple from Old Whittington started fostering for Derbyshire County Council 23 years ago and have never looked back.
Amazingly they’ve had over 200 placements during that time.
Ruth, 51, said: “We both decided that we wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and we felt that fostering could help us do that.
“It has been really rewarding because you see the difference that it makes to families and the children themselves.”
Ruth and Phil have formed lasting, life long, attachments with some of their charges. They adopted their daughter at the age of 15 after caring for her for three years and last summer they were at the wedding of another of their foster children as mum and dad of the bride.
Ruth said: “It was an emotional and proud moment for us both. Seeing children we’ve cared for grow up and achieve is very rewarding.”
Ruth and Phil are now moving onto providing contract care which is one of the most specialised forms of fostering.
They will be working with young parents and babies. Offering support both to the young person themselves and also helping them establish routines for caring for their own baby.
One Chesterfield teenager, 18-year-old Billy, knows exactly how important it is to have a happy, loving place to call home.
Taken into care when he was six, he is now a settled and focused young man who is studying child care and is a permanent part of his fostering family.
Billy said: “I don’t remember much about when I was taken into care other than my mum told me to wait outside to be collected. She didn’t tell me why.”
Billy has been with Ruth and Phil since he was 11 and is now part of the Staying Put scheme where young people can stay on with carers after 18.
He said: “I have to now pay rent and help out with the bills but I get help doing that.
“Ruth and Phil have helped me in so many ways. From getting me support in school when I was diagnosed with dyslexia to encouraging and inspiring me to study child care. I don’t think I would have achieved the things I have if I had stayed with my birth family.”
From taking part in family holidays to discovering new hobbies and ambitions, Billy has been encouraged, cajoled and treated just like any other member of the family.
He says: “They have encouraged me in my hobbies and to achieve. They help me work towards my goals. I have to work for things and learn the value of them. I have had such a lot of support and help from them as well as from social services.”
No two placements are the same, and not all are as successful as Billy’s, but it’s clear that he couldn’t be happier.
To findout more about fostering, contact Derbyshire County Council on 0800 083 7744 or email firstname.lastname@example.org