Couple, aged 62 and 67, who have fostered 144 children in 21 years say it’s the most rewarding thing they’ve done because it changes lives – and reveal they have no plans to stop
- Many Bright, 62, and her husband Joe, 67, began fostering children in 2000
- They have fostered 144 children and 16 vulnerable parents over 21 years
- The couple say the work is the ‘most rewarding thing’ they have ever done
A couple who have fostered 144 children over two decades have said it is the ‘most rewarding thing’ they’ve done because they’re making a difference in the lives of vulnerable young people.
Many Bright, 62, and her husband Joe, 67, began taking emergency placements in 2000 and have since had dozens of children pass through the doors of their home in of West Derby, Liverpool.
The couple, who have one biological son, house young people from between one night and two years.
They also take in vulnerable young parents and their children in the hope of ‘breaking the cycle’ of childhood trauma that leaves so many in the foster care system.
Rewarding: Many Bright, 62, and her husband Joe, 67, pictured, began taking emergency placements in 2000 and have since had dozens of children pass through their home
Compassionate: Mandy with three foster children at a christening. The couple also take in vulnerable young parents and their children in the hope of ‘breaking the cycle’ of childhood trauma that leaves so many in the foster care system
Mandy, a retired civil servant, said she always knew she wanted to become a foster parent because her own parents and grandparents fostered children.
She explained: ‘I grew up around foster children so I knew fostering was something I always wanted to do.
‘It’s not always easy, but knowing that we make a difference is what keeps us going. We always said if we could make a difference to just one child’s life, it would all be worth it.
‘And we know we have changed many children’s lives because they come back and tell us. I have stayed in contact with many of our foster children.
‘We even watched one of them get married recently. It’s the most rewarding feeling knowing you’ve helped to make someone’s life better.’
Mandy and Joe have taken in vulnerable children from homes where there are issues with drug and alcohol abuse, and whose parents suffer with poor mental health.
Bright futures: Mandy with one of her foster children at a christening. She says she keeps in touch with many of the children she fosters and has seen how much it changes their lives
Mandy continued: ‘You have to have a lot of compassion and understanding of where issues arise from. You need to show empathy. But the thing to focus on is that we are looking after these children to keep them safe.’
In 2010, the couple started taking in ‘parent and child placements’. This involves inviting a parent or parents, as well as their children, into their home so they are supported.
The idea is to offer greater support to vulnerable parents, who might have come through the care system themselves, and show them what ‘a proper functioning family system’ looks like.
Mandy said: ‘If you can help and support a parent and teach them to look after their child safely, then they can go on and develop and life a proper family life.
Like family: Two of Mandy Bright’s foster children enjoy a holiday to Cyprus in 2008
Hope: Mandy and Joe are encouraging other couples to sign up as foster parents. Pictured, two of their foster children enjoy a holiday to Cyprus in 2008
‘These types of placements can be very demanding because you have to be with them 24/7, but it makes a huge difference to their lives.
‘We had a 16-year-old mother once who had become homeless while pregnant. We had a brilliant success with her. She went on to become a brilliant parent to her little boy.’
One of their foster children, a daughter, has become part of their family and her children view Mandy and Joe as their grandparents.
Mandy said: ‘We know we change lives because they come back and tell us. Many children we fostered now have good fulfilled lives as adults, and that makes all the difference to us.
‘We have been told, “if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be here now”. It’s brilliant.’
Mandy and Joe have no plans to stop fostering and are encouraging others to consider signing up.
Mandy said: ‘More than ever, we need new foster parents to come forward. It can be stressful, but it is the most rewarding feeling.
‘You know you’re helping to make someone’s life better and that makes it all worth it.’