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After 20 years working in the hospitality industry, Emily Axford took stock. She had left school at 16 and trained to become a chef. By the time she reached 40, she was a business manager for McDonald’s and had worked for the company all over the country. She then ran a pub.    

Emily, foster carer with Community Foster Care

“I’d been a career person ever since I left school. But I got to the stage when I thought there must be something else out there for me,” she said.   

She wasn’t sure what that ‘something else’ might be.     

“I’d been thinking about fostering for some time. I didn’t have any children of my own but I love kids - I’m a godmother six times over and it’s great being their Aunt Em.   

“My ex-husband had been in foster care and through him I learned that there are a lot of children who want to be looked after.   

“But I was so wrapped up in everyday life that I never took that jump,” said Emily, now 44.   

“I came to a crossroads in my life and decided to find out more.  I Googled ‘fostering’ and a started to check out how to go about it.    

“The first agency I phoned wasn’t very encouraging. Then I found Community Foster Care about half way down the first page of Google.   

“The website was really friendly with lots of information and buttons to press. And when I rang, they just said ‘yes – can we come and see you?’   

“I thought ‘Ace – let’s go, and let’s do it soon’.”  

A nine-month assessment and training period with Community Foster Care followed.   

“Everyone at CFC was amazing – really friendly and helpful,” said Emily.    

“I thought they might not accept me because I was divorced and living on my own, but that wasn’t an issue.”   

Her first cared-for child walked through the door of her home in Quedgeley in February 2013.   

“I was so excited – I probably scared him to bits. He was supposed to stay for a few months and ended up being with me for a year.  He has done brilliantly – he’s now got a job and is living independently. He sends me a Mother’s Day card and pops in every now and then.  I’m so proud of him,” she beamed.   

As well as caring for two boys on long-term placements, Emily also offers emergency care for children who need a safe haven for a maximum 42 days.  She greets them all with the same broad smile and warm welcome.    “When they arrive they are generally scared.  The older ones might put on a bit of bravado, but they’re all the same inside. They feel rejected and vulnerable.   

“Seeing them on the doorstep with a few bags of belongings is heartbreaking. The first thing I ask is if they’ve had their tea – and they look at me like a rabbit in the headlights.   

“They tend to stay in their room at first.  I give them their own space and make sure they know I’m there for them and gradually they relax.   

“I treat them as I’d like to be treated. What they want is stability and a safe place to live and the knowledge that someone is there for them and that there’s nothing to be afraid of. They need someone to give them a chance – it’s never too late to help.”  

Becoming a carer has transformed her life. She has an entire new network of friends – fellow carers who act as a sounding board – and no regrets about leaving her career in the hospitality industry.   

Emily’s advice to anyone considering fostering is unequivocal: “Absolutely go for it. Don’t put it off. You get a lot of support and training from Community Foster Care and you meet lots of other carers so there’s always someone to talk to.   

“Of course there are low points – there are with any child. But there are a lot more fantastic  moments – like a hug that comes from nowhere when you least expect it. That to me is priceless. And hearing children’s laughter – a deep belly laugh. It’s so infectious and you can’t help but smile. You find yourself doing daft things just to hear it again.”

Click here to find out more about becoming a foster carer.