Lizzie & Shaun have dedicated 35 years to fostering, taking in over 300 children
01 December 2023
01 December 2023
Lizzie,62, began her fostering journey as a registered childminder 35 years ago. During this time Lizzie was approached to take on 2 little ones, with very little training at the time, she said yes. Lizzie quickly discovered that fostering was her passion, ‘I absolutely loved it and the rest was history’. After opening their home to over 300 children between them, Lizzie says,
‘From respite, emergency, short term to long term placements, we have experienced it all’.
Shortly after, Lizzie went on to become a registered foster carer with the local authority then other private agencies, before joining the Nexus Fostering family. With their vast years of experience, Lizzie says,
‘I know what we expect from a fostering agency after being in the game for so long. We really love Nexus, everyone we have dealt with within Nexus, has always been very supportive and understanding.’
Lizzie and Shaun adopted one of the children they cared for. The young girl came to them aged 13 months with 2 of her siblings, and when she was 4 years old the adoption went through, she is now 16 years old.
Lizzie explained ‘the children came to us absolutely starving and our now daughter hadn’t bonded with her birth mum. They had suffered some of the worst neglect we had seen, the first 6 months were so challenging as she would cry and scream in panic at everything and only slept as a result of absolute exhaustion. After meeting with her birth mother a couple of times, she asked if we would adopt her. I have 3 birth children of my own from a previous marriage but myself and Shaun had created such a special bond with her, that we agreed’.
Allegations can be a worry for any foster carers, however, Lizzie discusses how allegations are often part of fostering and not as common as some may think.
‘Out of the 300 children we have cared for, we have had 3 allegations, 1 of which was serious. However, all of them were unfounded, and when you look at how many children we have cared for it is less than 1%. It is important to keep things in perspective and have faith in the system.’
Their dedication to fostering and resilience has carried them through the tough times as Lizzie says ‘the positives and rewards of fostering far outweigh any challenge’.
Previously Lizzie worked as a mental health nurse for 15 years & the magistrate court as an enforcement officer, which has given her many transferable skills including record keeping and paperwork, advantageous as a foster carer. Shaun, previously an engineer, left work after an accident and now is a full-time carer with Lizzie.
Lizzie says ‘having a strong relationship with my partner Shaun, is one of the reasons we make it work as you can set boundaries together and make them clear to the children.’
Lizzie explained ‘when it comes to looking at referrals, we know our strengths and weaknesses and know what works for our family.’ They currently have 3 children in their care, a 17-year-old young man who has been with them for 3 years and sibling brothers, who are 5 and 6 years old. They advocated for their 17-year-old boy to receive the appropriate support he needed for various health and learning difficulties. Lizzie explained ‘the brothers aged 5 and 6, came to us, after having no boundaries set their entire life, and their behaviour was out of control’. Lizzie & Shaun are now planning to take the boys through until they are 18 years old. Lizzie explains how the 6-year-old boy appreciates the basics since coming into her care.
‘I recall when he told me, when I was at home with mummy I was hungry, when I was at home with mummy my clothes weren’t flat, he just gets into bed and breathes in the scents of his bed linen.’
Fostering allows children to experience a loving home and break the vicious cycle. Lizzie has gone above and beyond for all the children in her care. Lizzie says ‘My first placement came to us and she became pregnant at the age of 14 with twins, the local authority moved her into independence into a bedsit, however, she sadly lost them at 24 weeks. We helped pay for the funeral and headstones. She then moved back in with us, she had gone through hell. Now she has 5 children and is a registered nurse and regularly comes to visit us with her children and it's just amazing to see.’
A standout memory for the couple was when they agreed to care for a 14-year-old girl, suffering from severe anorexia. ‘We first met her at a unit where she had been for 3 years, and she was just lovely.’ Lizzie knew she had the mental health training and skills to help her recovery.
‘Although she tried every trick in the book, after 12 months in our care, she was eating and attending college in London’. At 18 years old she moved into independence and to London, Lizzie explained ‘All these years later we are still in contact, and she wrote us the most beautiful letter and thanked us for saving her life’.
Within the last 18 months, they cared for a 15-year-old young boy who came to them weighing 28 stone, within 12 months of their care he had lost 12 stone and is now able to lead a healthy life.
Everyday life as a foster carer can have its challenges but Lizzie explains how the small day-to-day things make it all worth it after her youngest boys fell in love with a new set of dinosaur bedding earlier that day.
She recalled as she put them to bed they replied with ‘Na night Lizzie I love you’. Just seeing that insignificant pure joy, is precious’. Lizzie went on to recommend fostering to anyone that is 100% committed to helping a child or young person. She said ‘Our role is to prepare them the best way we can for adult life, whilst they are under my roof I fight for them like a mother tiger but once they are of an age to be independent, we hope they are in a secure place to go on and lead a wonderful life.’
If you have been inspired by Lizzie and Shaun’s story. Contact Nexus Fostering here.
01 December 2023