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Mum tells why fostering is the best job in the world

Marie BuxtonWITH a household of four growing boys aged 6 to 19 to care for, Tameside foster mum Marie Buxton has certainly got her hands full.

But the 51-year-old would not have it any other way.

“I love my job and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else now,” she said. “I don’t look at it as work or a chore – it is a way of life and is more satisfying and rewarding than I could have ever imagined.”

Marie told how she worked in retail until she and her husband, Warren, who works for himself, first looked into fostering nine years ago.
“I worked as an area support manager, which I used to enjoy, but over the years the pressures had got worse and I realised I wasn’t very happy anymore and needed a life change. We didn’t have children but realised we had a lot to offer so we decided to find out more about foster caring.

“It’s the best move we’ve ever made. Yes our lives changed overnight and yes there have been challenges and doubts but they have been far outweighed by the smiles, hugs, warmth and love.

“This is one big happy household where we hope to help children to feel safe, secure and loved while helping them to be the best they can be.

“It’s been a huge lifestyle change, you have to be organised and plan ahead, but life is more special now. For example, I used to hate Christmas when I worked in retail but now I absolutely love it. It gets to fever pitch in this house with all the excitement and family celebrations.”

From the outset, Marie and Warren were keen to offer longer term foster placements and began fostering two brothers from the ages ten and nine. Both boys stayed with them throughout their teens. The eldest one moved out at 19 and is now at university but the youngest, Damien, who is at college, still lives with them under the Council’s Staying Put scheme.

“We have seen Damien and his brother through many milestones, from learning to ride a bike to sitting their GCSE’s. It’s great they we can still be there for Damien as he moves into adulthood, teaching him life skills like money management and cooking while providing a stable and supportive home base.”

In 2010 the couple fostered two more brothers, aged two and three. Originally the placement was supposed to be for just a few weeks but it was going so well that the boys stayed with the family until discussions started about them going for adoption. Despite their original plans, Marie and Warren decided to adopt them themselves.

“I have two hats when I’m fostering – my family hat and my professional hat and you have to wear your professional hat to put your own feelings aside and do what’s best for the children, no matter how attached you are.

“But we discussed it with the older boys and decided that, in this case, adopting was the right thing to do. These two are now 11 and nine and are doing really well. So well in fact that six months ago we decided we had room to foster one more – a six-year-old boy – who has fitted into the family brilliantly. It is so lovely to see him thriving and growing in confidence.

“All the boys see themselves as brothers and enjoy being spending time together. I think Damien enjoys being the eldest one now and a role model for the younger ones to look up to.”

Over the years the couple have also provided a 14-month placement for an eight-year-old girl who went on for adoption and a one week emergency placement for two siblings. In the future, they hope to do more work with teenagers.

“It’s a busy house and no two days are the same. It’s exhausting but exhilarating, you’re constantly learning and it’s never boring. I have fantastic support from my family and the foster care support team and social workers as well as lots of training. There is also a wonderful support network of local foster carers and it feels like being part of a bigger family. I enjoy being a professional in what I do but most of all I enjoy being a mum and giving children a chance in a stable and loving home.”

My typical day

6.30am Get up, shower then enjoy a quiet cup of coffee in the kitchen. This is my moment of peace before everyone wakes up.

7am Ensure everyone is awake. The boys get themselves dressed and make their own beds (sometimes with a little help!)

7.20am Breakfast. We all sit around the kitchen table and talk about our day ahead.

7.40am Reading Club. The boys take it turn to read to me every morning. I find it works much better when they a fresh and alert rather than after school when they just want to go out and play.

8.10am The boys have a quick play while I get myself ready to leave the house.

8.30am School run. There are two schools involved so Warren will drop off at one while I drop off at the other.

9am Back home to tidy the house, put a wash on and plan what meals we’ll be having and whether I need to get any food in. Some days I have meetings or training to attend and there’s always things like appointments to make. I do try, though, to make some time for myself at least one day a week and go for a swim, have my nails done or meet a friend for coffee.

3.30pm Time to collect the boys from school – again Warren helps with this when he can. On some days the boys attend after school clubs and I attend one of the club with the six year old so I can give him my undivided attention while we make things and take part in activities.

4.30pm Home to make tea while the boys play outside – they really enjoy getting out in the fresh air.

5.30pm
We all sit down as a family to eat tea and go round the table, taking turns to tell everyone about our day, what we have done and what we have learned. It’s a lovely part of the day when everyone comes together.

6.30pm
Showers and pyjamas.

7.30pm The boys’ bedtimes are staggered so they all get a bit of one to one time and a good night cuddle.

8.30pm I’m still going – cleaning up, sorting more washing and making packed lunches to go in the fridge for the next day.

9pm Finally I sit down and relax after a busy, but very satisfying, day.