When Joanne Sanderson sees three happy children on the sofa with sausage dog Milo, she reckons she’s done the right thing.
For two of the children are her own. The third joined their foster family three years ago and is now in long-term foster care.
The fact that they get on so well together is testament to the decision Joanne and her husband Jonathan made when they applied to become foster carers with Community Foster Care.
“We’re a very happy family. We had room in our house and wanted to help children in foster care by providing them with a safe, stable and caring environment. The time felt right for us to be able to do that,” said Joanne.
“We’d been thinking about fostering for a few years. When I was at school my best friend’s mum used to foster. So was one of our ex-neighbours who was a single mum at the time. We knew there was a desperate need for carers.”
Having decided that fostering was for them, Joanne and Jonathan took stock for two years.
“We waited until it was the right time for our family. We wanted our youngest to be old enough to understand what fostering means.
“As it turned out, the first child who came was a perfect fit – like a built-in friend. He had the same interests as our son and they got on brilliantly. He made us laugh, was always keen to muck in and was an absolute pleasure.
“We also have a very good relationship with his birth family.”
Joanne and Jonathan were childhood sweethearts who met at Dowdales School at Dalton-in-Furness, the town where they still live.
After leaving school Joanne had a variety of jobs in office administration. She was engaged at 16, married at 21 and now has a 16-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son.
She went back to work part-time after her baby break and studied for an NVQ Level 3 in child care.
Her life changed completely in 2014 when she saw an advert about Community Foster Care in the local newspaper and picked up the phone.
“I was quite naïve really but CFC were brilliant. They came to visit and talked us through everything. Then we did the training and our first child arrived shortly afterwards.”
Her mum, Lesley Allen, lives five minutes away with husband Ken and helps out. Lesley also attends the ongoing CFC training courses so that, between them, mum and daughter are equipped for any situation which might come their way.
Joanne has absolutely no regrets. “Being a foster carer has been brilliant. I’m so pleased we’ve done it,” she said.
Her advice to others who might be considering fostering: “Make sure it’s right for your whole family, then pick up the phone. There’s lots of support and help to get you started, and excellent training.
“It’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”