Rewarding life of being a Sheffield foster mum

Foster carer Debbie Herson with Liz Sloane who she took in when she was in her mid-teens
Foster carer Debbie Herson with Liz Sloane who she took in when she was in her mid-teens

Foster parent Debbie had read all about her new arrival; she was expecting a troubled girl.

But when Liz arrived, she saw only a sweet, mature girl with a lovely smile and lovely manners.

Within days, the single mum discovered they shared the same sense of humour and were laughing so much they cried. “I don’t think either of us had expected that,” she says. “We bonded immediately.”

Debbie has been one of Sheffield City Council’s 230 foster carers for 17 years. She was a single woman of 34 when she started and has had five children on long-term placements. She has also provided holiday and weekend care for 20 children. Some fosterers provide such support to children in families at risk of breaking down. Far more foster carers are needed, though; currently there are 610 children in care in the city.

Debbie urges anyone who feels they could support and care for a child in need to step up.

Two years ago Debbie won an award for Foster Care Excellence. Her 14-year-old daughter Megan and her current foster child have also received commendations.

“I look back on how much Liz has changed while she’s been with us and that’s my reward,” she says, recalling with pride how the girl who hated school sat down and wrote a long essay for social workers when they asked her why she wanted to stay. “There was a lump in my throat when I read it.” says the 51-year-old.

“People are reluctant to foster teenagers which is so sad; they are so in need of love and guidance. And they do respond. I gave Liz rules; she had to go to school and give 100 per cent, there was to be no running away and she had to show the same consideration and respect to everyone on the house that she would want from them.

“She did everything I asked of her, never once did I regret my decision to take her in and she has grown into a lovely young lady who is making a success of her life.”