A LEICESTER couple have given a new start in life to more than 400 children in a 45-year period as the city’s longest-serving foster carers.
Mick and Elaine Hope have opened their doors to provide short-term, long-term, respite and day care placements to children for over four decades, providing support and improving countless lives along the way.
Their story comes as part of Foster Care Fortnight, a national campaign which runs from May 15 to 28, highlighting the vital role that foster carers play in giving children a second chance in life.
Mick and Elaine first applied to foster back in 1978, when they were newly married with one child and expecting their second and felt they could help more children who needed safe and loving homes.
Now aged 75 and 65 respectively, Mick and Elaine are still continuing that commitment – they currently have two children placed; a nine-year-old placed long term, and a three-year-old who is placed with them short term while awaiting his forever home.
They also care for their adopted son who has complex disabilities and have raised four birth children and have six grandchildren.
Elaine said: “Every child we get is different. When they come here first, they are very shut down and with a lot of problems, but then seeing their confidence growing, you can see a massive difference.
“They teach you as much as you can teach them and we learn how to help them through it. They arrive with such severe problems and when they leave they are happy, loved and loving life.”
Foster carers have to be ready to deal with the wide variety of situations that lead to children to need them. Elaine and Mick have remained in contact with many of the children they have cared for, many of which are now adults with their own families.
“Some come for a couple of hours or days, and some stay for months or even years,” said Elaine. “One came for a month when she was five and stayed until she was 22.
“Many of them keep in touch and tell us how well they are doing now. We can see how happy they are and know that we’ve played a part.”
The worst part, said Elaine, is saying goodbye to children they have helped raise.
At the same time, seeing them being ready to leave and begin a new life is among the most rewarding parts of the role.
“We’ve had some since birth, so the hardest part is the day they leave. But we spark back up again when the next one comes along and we put everything into that one.
“We’ve got to be happy for them because they are going off to a new life and permanence. It’s very rewarding and it’s what keeps us going.
“My best advice would be if you love children then do it. Foster carers are needed desperately.”
Leicester deputy city mayor for children’s social care, Cllr Sarah Russell, added: “Foster carers play a vital role in enabling children to get a fair start in life, and to experience a loving, safe home and family.
“I’d urge anyone interested in finding out more to get in touch with us. The city council has a thriving fostering community and an excellent support network for foster carers, both of which are essential in helping people taking this hugely demanding and extremely rewarding path in life.”
For more information on Foster Care Fortnight visit the Leicester Fostering Facebook page here.
Local information is also available at Leicester City Council’s fostering pages here or by ringing 0116 454 4500.