Jemma Wells is the latest member in her family to become a foster carer, a career which spans four generations.
Her parents, both sets of her grandparents and even her mother’s grandparents have been foster carers. And now at just 23, Jemma is set to become a foster carer.
“I’ve always wanted to do fostering, but I felt my age was against me. Most 23-year-olds haven’t yet started a family, let alone taken on a commitment to foster,” says Jemma.
Growing up with foster children
Jemma was 11 when her parents first started to foster. As well as her brother and sister, Jemma shared the house at times with up to three foster children. “Coming into foster care, they need to feel they’ve got a family, as well as feeling part of the family. I’ve always treated them equally,” she says.
The relationship Jemma has with her parents was very important and is something that has influenced her relationship with her own young son. Jemma adds: “I supported my parents because I wanted to make the foster children feel comfortable. Often because I was young I was the person they could talk to, as they don’t always want to go to an adult.
“Mum and dad were always honest with us saying that the kids staying with us needed our support, because they were in difficult situations themselves. I trusted my parents to keep me safe when we were growing up and they trusted me to be honest with them. I hope that’s the same with my son.”
Leading a ‘normal’ family life was very important for Jemma’s parents, despite the fact that they had to deal with the challenges of fostering. “Sometimes it was difficult when mum and dad were focused on the foster children, but I was used to it. I had all the love, time and affection I needed when I was growing up. I knew the foster children hadn’t had that and that that was the time when they got it,” she says.
A rewarding challenge
Having left school and become a hairdresser, Jemma later became a contact supervisor and family support worker, before applying to East Sussex County Council to become a foster carer.
The process towards becoming an approved carer took about six months. She says: “I got a huge level of support from the team didn’t find it stressful. There are lots of people who think they can’t do it because of one thing or another, but if you get in touch with the team, you might be surprised.
“There will be challenges, but it really is rewarding. I remember one little boy mum and dad were looking after who had never been to the beach before. We all took him down there on a freezing cold day, but he’d never had sand beneath his feet before. He loved it, he was so happy. That’s a reward, that’s why I want to do it.”
To become a foster carer with East Sussex County Council, visit fostering.