Steve & Suzanne

from Manchester

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Suzanne and Steve Gregson live in Wythenshawe, Manchester, and have been respite and long term carers since 2002 with Fostering Solutions. Suzanne, 43, and Steve, 45, have three of their own children, but also provide specialist care for a foster child who has profound and complex disabilities and requires round the clock care. Suzanne and Steve initially thought becoming foster carers may be a lot to take on, with their own family as well, but they soon realised that fostering has brought their family closer together.

Suzanne said: “Foster caring is something I’ve always wanted to do as I feel I have learnt a lot growing up and have a lot to offer. Steve wasn’t sure at first but once we enquired and found out more, we’ve never looked back.

“I was a manager of a bakery shop before I began fostering. We hadn’t planned on having a child with complex needs, it just so happened that our very first placement had them – we initially had him on a very short term basis. We didn’t have any experience dealing with disabilities at the time, but actually felt fully equipped to cope, thanks to the fantastic support we received from Fostering Solutions. He stayed with us for approximately two weeks and then returned home to his birth parents.

“Around six months later, we received a call from Fostering Solutions saying this child was back in the care system and asking if he could come back to us. At the time we had taken on another young person with challenging needs, so we ended up with two complex placements. We all welcomed our first child back and he became a long term placement, as did the other young person who stayed with us for 12 years until she was 22.

“We have been caring for our foster child with profound disabilities since he was four years old and he is shortly to turn 18 – we hope to keep him with us after this so we can continue to see him grow and develop, so that he can reach his full potential. Steve has been the main carer and has been completely dedicated to making sure our foster child gets outstanding care both at home and at school, giving up his job in manufacturing.

“Because of our foster son’s complex needs, he can’t do much for himself, so Steve does everything – even staying downstairs with him if he’s having a bad night’s sleep. He needs one to one care, sometimes two to one, and our home life revolves around him, his routine and needs. Our daughter Jessica is part of our support network too, she helps out all the time and she's amazing with him.

“We also have our own children as well as foster children. Steve and I really want to provide children in care with a positive and real experience of family life. Since being foster carers we’ve also seen our children change and adapt, they’ve grown up to be more caring, understanding of disabilities and complex needs and it’s helped us perfect a real family lifestyle. It’s brought out the best in them.

“The best thing for me about foster caring is watching the children who come into our care develop and seeing them grow in confidence. Some will come into our care and, at first, don’t talk or even look at people and then a couple of months later they’re talking and have miles more confidence. It’s like they’re completely different children and the outcomes are fantastic.

“Steve and I have also progressed with all the training and support we’ve been offered by Fostering Solutions. We now feel we can manage our complex foster children’s needs and would say that training is vital to our role.

“Foster caring requires hard work, dedication, love and nurturing. You must be committed to regular training so you can deal with any challenges you may face. Fostering Solutions has provided specialist training on complex needs for us which has been excellent and also offers respite care, which gives us time to recharge and spend time with our other children and our twin grandsons. Our supervising social worker Linda is hugely supportive, we have a great support network of other foster carers too. Being a foster carer is hugely rewarding and you get to see have in hand in that child or young person developing and growing.”

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