Hampshire personality: We meet Hampshire foster carer Patricia Kelly-Blyth
Patricia Kelly-Blyth has fostered children for Hampshire County Council for over 17 years.
Why did you decide to become a foster carer?
My husband Graham and I didn’t have children of our own but we did want children in our lives so fostering seemed natural. When we started off, I was working full-time and we just did weekend respite but when I went part-time we became full-time carers. I’ve almost lost count but I believe we’ve fostered nearly 50 children now.
How many children do you have with you at the moment?
Three teenage boys, aged 13, 14 and 15.
What is it like moving children or teenagers on? Do they keep in touch?
It’s a time of mixed emotions. It is sad for us to say goodbye but it’s also exciting for them and for us, wondering what the future holds. We do as much as we can to help prepare them – saving money, learning how to budget, shopping. We also build up the cooking gradually, teaching them the importance of hygiene and encouraging them to shop for ingredients. We also had our electric meter changed to a key meter several years ago so they can learn different ways to manage their bills. Not all of the children stay in touch but some do and we are always pleased to see them and to see how they are doing.
How would you say being a foster carer has changed your life?
We were just a couple before. What we love now is being able to do ‘silly’, child-focussed things like mucking around on the swings in the park and playing football. We also have great holidays with the children.
What experience and qualities do you think you need to be a good foster carer?
Patience is very important and, of course, a wish to help young people and to get involved. A sense of humour also helps! There are a lot of myths which prevent people coming forward. Some people think you have to be part of a couple, to have a big house or to be a certain age. Others think they will be out of pocket and don’t realise that you get an allowance to pay for the children’s expenses. You do need to have a spare bedroom for the child but apart from that there are very few barriers.
What keeps you interested in fostering for Hampshire County Council?
We love the experience of a new child walking through the door and watching that child grow in confidence and thrive. Being a foster carer can sound quite a serious undertaking and yes, there are some challenges but we also have a lot of fun!
What advice would you give to anyone considering fostering?
I would urge them to pick up the phone and have a chat with our recruitment team. Don’t assume you couldn’t do it. We urgently need all kinds of carers – full-time and respite. There are a lot of children in Hampshire who need families. There is excellent training and help and advice from the social work teams. We have great foster carer support groups which are also a fun social network for the carers and the children – we have some great outings and picnics too!
So your message would be that fostering isn’t all about the challenges; it can be fun and rewarding?
Definitely! I have a six foot Christmas tree and every year we take our children out and they choose decorations to go on it. It doesn’t look neat and tidy and co-ordinated like some people’s trees – it’s a real mishmash – but every year we can look at it and every bauble on it holds fantastic memories of all the children who have spent Christmas with us. I wouldn’t swap that for anything.
Find out more about fostering or call 0845 603 5620