Giving a helping hand to troubled teenagers in their hour of need.
It’s something Ian and Carol Perry have been doing for the last four years.
And they describe fostering youngsters as ‘the best, most rewarding job you will ever have’.
They admitted having some initial apprehension about jumping into the world of foster caring – but 30 children later they haven’t looked back.
The Woodseats couple started fostering in October 2012 and have since fostered over two dozen children.
They look after young people awaiting court proceedings.
Ian, aged 66, said: “I’ve seen children as young as 12 in police cells and you realise how terrifying it must be.”
The pair have also taken vulnerable youngsters in who have been involved in suspected child sexual exploitation.
Ian had been volunteering with the youth offending team as a mentor when he heard about remand fostering and decided to give it a go.
The former operations director for a logistics company retired from his job which entailed working across European.
And he said his new role had given him a sense of purpose after retirement.
“We thought about it and decided to give it a go,” said Ian.
“We didn’t really have much time to adapt – we got approved by the panel at 3.30pm and around 1.20am we had our first foster child.”
The couple are something Sheffield Council desperately need more of to combat a shortage of people like Ian and Carol in the city.
Sheffield Council is asking more families to help change the lives of children and young people throughout the city by becoming foster carers.
In Sheffield there are 271 fostering households who look after more than 278 children.
The call for more carers comes at the start of Foster Care Fortnight, which runs nationally in May every year.
Ian and Carol’s experience has changed their own outlook on young people and the potential issues some Sheffield teenagers go through.
Ian said: “Young people get a lot of bad press – they aren’t villains.
“They are just kids who haven’t had the opportunities that other children may have had.
“I think there’s always a preconception about teenagers being in lots and lots of trouble and they’ve got loads of issues, but actually most of them just want a sense of well-being and security.”
The people who come through the couple’s door have been through a range of problems.
They have usually been dealt a cruel hand in life – but Ian and Carol say they are determined to change their prospects.
“If you have a spare bedroom and can provide a young person with a safe space you could really change a young person’s life,” Ian said.
“One teenager came to us, she was so anxious she couldn’t even get on the bus. Now she is going out all the time.
“It’s such a rewarding role, I get a bit of money for it but that’s not why we do it. We do it because we feel we make a real difference to people’s livelihoods.
“It’s the best, most rewarding job you will ever have.”
Lynne and Philip are council tenants living in south Sheffield who have been fostering children for the past 16 years.
Because of child protection issues, their surnames or the area of the city where they live cannot be revealed.
The couple, like Ian and Carol, are urging people to sign up and make a difference.
Lynne said: “It is one of the most rewarding things we have ever done. Just seeing the change in the children you care for.
“You often can’t see it at the time but when you look back at how far they’ve come, from being withdrawn or not speaking any English, you can really see the difference you are making to these children’s lives.
“It’s often the simple things that makes a real difference that we take for granted. I remember taking one little boy to the seaside. His eyes were so wide when he saw the sea. He said ‘look at the big bath water’.
“If it is something you have been thinking about, don’t think I can’t do this. Go along to a meeting or call the council’s fostering team to find out more and give it a go.”
Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families at Sheffield Council, said: “The foster carers in our city do a brilliant job.
“We need many more people to become foster carers – it’s rewarding and can be challenging but you can and will change lives.
“We particularly need people who could care for those older children or those brothers and sisters who need support and to stay together.
“Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more details – we’d be delighted to hear from you.”
She added: “I’d like to take the opportunity during Foster Care Fortnight to say a big ‘thank you’ to all foster carers for the wonderful job they do.”
n For more information please visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/fostering or www.facebook.com/Sheffieldfostering/