Former soldier Martin Betts admits he doesn’t fit the usual stereotype of a foster carer.
But the single dad – who served for seven years in the Royal Ordnance Corps – said it has been the most rewarding experience of his life.
The 49-year-old has spoken out as part of Fostering Fortnight to dispel myths about who can help change youngsters’ lives.
Martin, of Middlewood, said: “A lot of people don’t even think you are allowed to be a foster carer as a single man, I was surprised.
“Both my sisters are foster carers and I had seen how much they contributed to the lives of children and enjoyed it.
“I was a single dad at the time and thought ‘if I can bring my own child up, I’m sure I can help other children as well’.”
Martin, who also worked as a builder, has fostered eight children after the ‘rigorous’ selection process with Sheffield Council.
He is now looking after three boys, aged 11, nine and five.
“I haven’t looked back since”, Martin added.
“The best bit is bringing some love back into these children’s lives. A lot of them don’t think they are worth anything and that it is all their fault they are in care.
“To see a little boy that comes to you scared to death and blossoms – it is just amazing.”
Martin said the biggest hurdle was saying goodbye to the first child he fostered, who had ADHD and troublemaking friends when he arrived.
He added: “By the time he left me we had really turned his life around and he was a smashing lad. I was absolutely devastated to let him go.
“Seeing the difference you can make to a young person’s life has been the most rewarding experience of my life.
“You can help bring a smile back to their faces and hearing them tell you they love you when they thought no one would ever love them makes it all worthwhile.”
Plea for more people to be foster carers
There are 290 fostering households in Sheffield looking after more than 280 children – but more are needed.
Sheffield Council is hoping to recruit at least 40 more carers in the next year – and has thanked existing carers.
Fostering Fortnight also aims to show that most people can sign up – whether they are single, retired, unemployed or working.
They can also be from any ethnic or cultural background and of any sexual orientation.
The level of care can vary from short breaks or temporary care to providing a permanent home.
Liz Spaven, fostering and adoption service manager, said: “We urgently need new foster carers, especially for teenagers, sibling groups and for young people who need a long-term stable home.
“Becoming a foster carer can be a challenge and entails more than just providing a child with a roof over their head.
“It’s about helping them to grow up happy, healthy and with the confidence to reach their potential in a loving home.”
n Call the council’s fostering team on 0114 2735075.