Sheffield foster carers urge men to consider being a father figure

Foster dad Andy Baker with his Father's Day card. Picture: Andrew Roe

Foster dad Andy Baker with his Father's Day card. Picture: Andrew Roe

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Former pub landlord Ray Ducker had always wanted to foster – but it wasn’t until later in life that he provided a father figure to those in need.

The 68-year-old and his wife Audrey have made a difference to the lives of 16 youngsters in the last nine years.

Foster dad Ray Ducker. Picture: Andrew Roe

Foster dad Ray Ducker. Picture: Andrew Roe

The couple, of Mosborough, currently have special guardianship of a brother and sister, which means they will look after them until the age of 18, and are currently fostering two other little girls.

Today, in time for Father’s Day tomorrow, he is encouraging other men to consider playing a vital role in a child’s life.

Dad-of-two and grandad-of-three Ray, who was landlord at The Frecheville in Birley among other pubs, said: “We wanted to foster but because of work and other interests we never got around to it until later on.

“We find it really rewarding, at the moment we’ve got a little girl of five and her sister aged two – there’s never a dull moment.

“The youngest one could hardly say a word when she came to us, but now her vocabulary has come on in leaps and bounds, she can string sentences together and is very loving.

“You do get time to sit down a little bit, more than you do when you’re working!

“It definitely stops you rooting, with fostering there is always something to do.

“The younger two have been doing two weeks back with their mum and Sunday is their last day before they go back permanently, so they will spend the day with us for the last time on Father’s Day.”

Fellow foster dad Andy Baker knows the difference having a father figure can make.

He has a 15-year-old son and stepson, as well as a 10-year-old foster son to look after, with his wife Helen.

The family has spent time giving their foster son new experiences – from outdoor activities to holidays – and has seen a massive difference in him.

Andy, who works in the public sector and lives in Laughton Common, near Dinnington, said: “For me the reason for doing it is also because I believe all children need a positive male role model.

“All my values, I got from my dad, and I want to see our foster son grow up to be a good person as well as look back and remember the good times he had.

“When he came to us the furthest he had been was Bridlington, that was one of the few happy times he could remember.

“Now he has been to Scotland, France, we’re going to Spain which will be the first time he has flown and to Camp Bestival in Dorset which will be a new experience for me too!

“At first he wasn’t very good at sharing his emotions, he gave the impression he could be quite dismissive and he was prone to angry outbursts because he couldn’t manage his frustrations.

“Now he’s doing better at school, he has people coming round for tea which he never could before because of circumstances.

“For me one of the biggest things is to see him start to express himself and also to take part in opportunities that you will remember.

“It’s been very rewarding to see such a big change in him in the last 14 months.”

There are currently 280 foster households Sheffield – but there is a need for more and Sheffield Council is encouraging people to find out about the role.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families, thanked the city’s foster carers for providing a ‘life-changing experience.’

She said: “There is a real shortage of foster carers nationwide and Sheffield is no different.

“We hope Father’s Day really inspires people to take the next step and find out how they can really do something special to improve a child’s life.”

Foster carers can offer short breaks, temporary care or a permanent home. They can be single, married, employed or unemployed and receive allowances plus support.

Information evenings take place at the Quaker Meeting House in the city centre between 5.45pm and 8pm on Tuesday June 21 and Wednesday July 8.

n For more information call 0114 2735075 or email fostering@sheffield.gov.uk.

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