Hugging the giggling toddler sitting on her knee, Angela Fairweather has never felt more fulfilled or needed.

As she watches the little one pick up a book, Angela reflects on how a chance meeting with a friend changed her and her family’s lives.

Now she and her family are helping to develop happy and secure little children, and with the current Foster Care Fortnight putting the spotlight on how valuable fostering is, she hopes others will consider welcoming little ones into their homes too.

Angela, who has worked in sales and commercial roles and as a childminder, has always been child orientated, but having three children of her own and no spare room she thought it would be impossible to foster. But that chat with a midwife friend changed her and her family’s lives when she discovered they could care for babies and toddlers up to 3 years old, “I had always wanted to foster but never thought it would be possible. The day after that chat, I rang Middlesbrough Council”.

Fostering has taken Angela, partner Michael Drake – her ‘backbone’, and her children on an amazing journey, “Family values are massive to us, our own children have absolutely excelled during our fostering journey, it was difficult to bring a baby in to the home at first but they are so proud of what we do and we all feel honoured to have someone else’s baby in our lives”.

Angela will be the first to admit it’s not the easiest job, ‘When little ones come to us they are so vulnerable, one little girl was extremely distressed and timid and cried for 48 hours when she first came to stay, now she is a sociable and confident little girl. Getting those foundations right at an early age helps them to face whatever the future holds for them. We are very confident that we are doing the right things and are helping them to feel happy and safe’.

With the continued support of their social worker, Angela and the family are reassured that lockdowns have not had a lasting impact on their own and their foster child, ‘If you asked my children they would say that they have missed out on somethings because of lockdowns, but they have still managed to have fun staying within the guidelines. I feel guilty to our little one that she hasn’t experienced the family holidays, days out, going to playgroups that our other foster children have because of Covid. But we have tried our best to make sure that she has family time with her birth parents – we used video calls a lot in the first lockdown and the council gave us mobile phones to make it easier to keep in touch. Our social worker has been on hand all the time to support us and reassure us that missing days out doesn’t matter and to look at how happy she is and the progress she has made now.’

For Angela, fostering has always been about giving something back but the family have learnt a lot from the babies and toddlers they care for too, ‘the babies vulnerability hit us hard, before we started to foster we didn’t truly realise the impact we could have on their lives, they have shown us that by giving them love and care they can love us back. It’s humbling.’

If this is your light bulb moment, Angela has some great advice, ‘Go for it! Make sure you do your research and you have a good support network and everyone understands what’s happening. Other than having our own children this has been the most rewarding thing we have ever done in our lives.’

To find out more about the different types of fostering and how you could foster children of any age go to fosteringformiddlesbrough.org.uk or call 01642 201962.