Retired detective turned foster carer says it’s ‘never too late’ to improve young lives

Foster carer Keith and wife zoe

A retired police detective-turned-foster carer is backing a Kirklees Council campaign to find loving homes for 52 children in its care who will need support until they’re able to live independently. A major shortage of long-term foster carers means some could face being moved around, placed out of their local area or in residential care.

52 year-old Keith Talbot from Huddersfield has decided to share his story to encourage more people to come forward and to highlight that it’s never too late to help a child reap the rewards of a stable home.

Keith spent 30 years working for the police, starting out as a bobby on the beat before becoming a detective. During that time he dealt with countless crimes, with some cases resulting in children being placed into care.

Since retiring three years ago and feeling that he was ‘still able to do some good’, he decided to become a long-term foster carer with his wife, Zoe, who still works part-time at a local children’s home. Keith is now the primary carer for a ten-year old boy. He says:

“My time at the police taught me to be resilient which I’d say has stood me in good stead as a foster carer. Also Zoe’s job means she deals with children who’ve come from abusive and neglected backgrounds all the time, so we never went into it blindfold.’

“I used to witness children being placed into care, often at short notice, during unsociable hours and at weekends. I’d always perceived the foster carers to be like saints, or angels, even. To do what they do, essentially providing a lifeline for these children without hesitation, was so admirable and I’d always thought to myself; I’ll do that one day.’

“Once approved as foster carers we were matched with a nine-year old boy and the fostering team had prepared us for the fact that he had some issues. At first he’d easily become upset or angry. But we knew those behaviours were there for a reason and we could see the potential in him. We thought; how can he possibly behave reasonably or hope to do well in life if he hasn’t had a permanent, loving home to go to? It’s just not going to happen until he feels settled.’

“Six months in and with help and understanding this has abated and everything else has followed. In fact he’s shown himself to be a loving, caring individual. He now understands that he’s with us for the long haul and as a result he’s doing brilliantly. He’s happier, doing really well at school and he smiles a lot more. He even looks healthier!”

Keith continues:

“Zoe and I want him to have the same chances in life that our own children have had, such as university, if that’s what he wants. We’ve got two sons aged 22 and 26. My eldest, who teaches in Madrid, flew home specially for the child’s tenth birthday. My sons genuinely feel that they have a little brother and love him just the same.’

“Unlike parenting, where you know your child inside out, we’re still learning about each other. Over half term we all visited my son in Madrid and I learned that here was a child who’d had never been on an aeroplane before or stayed in a hotel. He was so excited and it was wonderful to see him enjoying brand new experiences; something we might have taken for granted with our own kids. With fostering you’re part of every little milestone and each time you get to see something new happening, from learning to speak and read and building meaningful relationships, to simply smiling for photos.”

Having experienced the rewards of fostering first hand Keith is encouraging others to do the same, adding:

“There are people who might think fostering is about looking after babies. But there are many older children out there who also need a loving family and I feel strongly that it’s never too late to help a child, whatever their age. Likewise I came into fostering later in life; proof that age makes no difference.

“I hope that my story will inspire others to come forward. It’s important to know that you’re never on your own with fostering. Every step of the way our social workers have been really supportive and helpful. They visit regularly and they’re only a phone call away if ever we need advice. We also have access to regular training which helps us to do our job to the best of our ability.

“To take a child who’s been through so much trauma and uncertainty, to then help turn their life around and give them the best possible start; how rewarding is that? Finding out more about a child every day is part of the challenge and part of the reward.”

Councillor Erin Hill, Cabinet Member for Family Support and Child Protection, from Kirklees Council, added:

“All our foster carers receive lots of support and training from our dedicated team of social workers to help find the right type of fostering, whether it’s long or short-term, supported lodgings or short break care. We urgently need more resilient, understanding people like the Talbots who can help children of all ages and ability levels to thrive, from childhood right through to adulthood.”

Could this be you?

To find out more speak to one of Kirklees Council’s fostering team on 0800 389 0086 or visit our foster care webpages.

Where you can also read about some of the children in urgent need of long-term foster families.

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