Sheffield couple who became foster carers in lockdown urge others to do the same
A couple from Sheffield who became foster carers during lockdown, are calling on more people to offer a safe home to vulnerable children and young people by taking up a role in fostering.
As part of Foster Care Fortnight, which runs until May 23, Camilo and Clare Diaz, from Norfolk Park are hoping by sharing their experiences they can encourage more people to think about fostering.
Camilo, a former chef, and his wife Clare, who runs a local barber shop with her sister, made the decision to begin fostering during the pandemic. Fostering is something they had always considered as they helped raise Camilo’s younger sister Gaby, from the age of 12. Since Gaby has grown up, and with the couple’s own three sons now teenagers, Camilo and Clare felt it was the right time to open their home to others in need.
Camilo left behind a career of more than 20 years as a chef to help change the lives of vulnerable children and young people. Initially planning for Clare to be the primary carer alongside barbering, when lockdown hit and his industry closed, Camilo was furloughed and decided to leave his role as a chef at the University of Sheffield’s Student Union to become the full-time foster carer.
Speaking about their decision to foster, Camilo said: “The pandemic was the push we needed to kick-start the process. We always knew we wanted to do something more fulfilling and be able to give something back. I felt I’d gotten everything I could out of being a chef, so by the time I was furloughed I was ready to move on with a career that would be more rewarding. My work-life has always been extremely stressful and I haven’t felt secure in the catering industry for a while so I was looking for something that would give me more stability and job security, and I’ve never looked back.”
In early 2020, the couple got in touch with Five Rivers Child Care – an independent fostering provider and social enterprise with local offices and foster carers across Sheffield. Although the couple initially enquired just to be respite carers, hoping to provide short-term accommodation in order to support existing foster carers, Camilo and Clare were given the opportunity to train as full-time carers, and in November 2020, a young girl named Daisy* joined the family.
Even though the pandemic has limited the activities the family can do together, the couple say that Daisy* gets on really well with their three teenage sons. Clare said: “We’ve been going on lots of family walks, but what Daisy* really loves is hair and makeup, we even let her have a go at cutting the boys hair which left us all laughing for days. I’ve told her I’ll teach her properly soon and when she’s older she can work in the shop with me if she wants.”
Speaking about what motivates them both to continue to foster, Clare said: “What keeps us going? It’s seeing the progress and changes in Daisy* that really tells us we are making a difference to a child’s life. On the first day we met her she wouldn’t even come into the house, but over the last few months we’ve really seen her open up and start to trust us. The first time she gave me a hug was a big thing, it really showed that we were making progress.”
Speaking about the transition into fostering, Camilo said: “Beginning something so new during a pandemic seemed daunting at first, but Five Rivers has been incredibly supportive and helpful throughout. Fostering gives me stability, but it is also very rewarding as I am able to offer a home to a youngster in need. Like all jobs, there are challenges that come with fostering but because of all the positives I can handle it much better. I feel very privileged to be able to do something where I can give back during this difficult time.
“To anyone who is thinking about becoming a foster carer, the main thing I can say is as long as you’ve got a good heart and a sense of humour, you could provide an incredible life for someone who really needs it.”
People from all walks of life can be considered to become foster carers as long as they are over 21-years-of-age. A role in foster care offers flexible working and a professional fee. For more information on foster care contact Five Rivers Child Care on 01246 643 269 or visit www.five-rivers.org.