Emma Hollingworth: Happy days in an entertaining ‘extended family’ – could you help out as a foster parent?

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WHEN you have a big family like we have people automatically assume you seem to like having loads of children around – even if they are not your own. That is why I feel we are often inundated with other people’s offspring as they come round for their tea or for a play.

Much as I welcome the adult company that often comes with them, I am not so keen on the extra squealing and squabbling other children in the house tend to bring – especially as I can barely tolerate my own three sometimes!

But it seems to me the more children you have the more people seem to think you will be OK if they add just another one to the heap. And often it is parents with one child who feel they can offload their offspring so they can get on with things in their lives. I daren’t ask them to return the favour as swapping one for three hardly seems a fair deal.

One of my best friends is the last of four children. I on the other hand was only one of two. So going to her house to play was always a novelty. There would always be loads of people around. Never was there a quiet moment.

There always seemed to be at least one friend for each child too. And her parents had lodgers. This was the 1970s when Peace and Love was in the air. Communes were all the rage.

Her family were all talented musicians so often the lodgers would be accompanied by instruments of varying shapes and sizes and the cacophony of noise emanating from her house whenever you went to visit was sometimes breathtaking.

This gave the house a certain electricity to it, making it the place to hang out as a curious seven-year-old – that and the fact it was a large, rambling old house set in acres of grounds which meant there was never any shortage of space to play in.

Regularly my parents would drop me off to play with my friend early in the morning and not come back for me until after tea-time.

This meant I got to eat my meals with the family and the plentiful lodgers and these meal times were some of the best and most memorable I have ever had.

The family owned the biggest table I have ever seen which stretched the length of a huge old dining room.

And the conversation, even for my child-like ears, was always filled with laughter and merriment. Never was there a dull moment.

Now I have a five-strong family of my own dinner times are certainly quite busy. And when we have guests it has the feel of my friend’s old place, I sometimes wistfully think.

But deep down I am not sure I could really cope with more people in my family unit.

That is why I really admire foster carers and the unsung work they do.

But sadly there are just not enough of them.

National Foster Care Fortnight runs from May 16-29 and Sheffield City Council is urging more foster carers to come forward.

For more information visit: http://www.sheffield.gov.uk/caresupport/childfam/fostering/whatisfostering