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February 2004
Wonder-Mum Wendy Gates
Wendy Gates
Wendy Gates

As well as being Mum to Bradford pop idol Gareth Gates, Wendy Gates is also a foster mum and has been for over ten years. She tells us why she loves looking after kids in care.

SEE ALSO

Liz Hay's story

Steve Williamson's story

Local weblinks and helpline numbers

National weblinks and helpline numbers

Taking Care

FACTS

25% of care leavers have a baby by the age of 16.

50% of care leavers are unemployed.

20% of care leavers are homeless.

26% of prisoners in England and Wales have been care as children.

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You're a foster mum aren't you Wendy? What exactly does that involve?
It involves taking in children, that are in care obviously, and looking after them as you look after your own children. After that, they either go home or go to adoptive carers.

How long have you been doing that for?
Altogether 13 years.

How many children have you got at the moment?
We just have the one at the moment.

And how old are they?
He's four.

What kind of things are you expected to do?
You've to generally care for the children. I just treat the children like I would my own children - lots of love and care and playtimes. A lot of the children come in like adults. We've to teach them how to be children again.

What would you say is the hardest thing about being a foster mum?
The hardest thing for me being a foster mum is moving the children on. When you take the children back to their homes because you get attached to them, well I do anyway. It doesn't get any easier, the more children you have.

What's the best thing about being a foster mum?
The best thing is the rewards - you know, seeing how the children are after even just a couple of weeks, after what they've come from. Not all of them, but a lot of the children come in in quite poor states. Seeing them laughing and smiling and playing and doing things that children do is just so nice for me.

What does the child get out of the placement?
All sorts from my house! (laughs) We love the children and they just learn to be loved which is so nice, as well and just being a happy, peaceful environment.

What made you decide to foster children?
Well I had my nephew 12, 13 years ago when he was five because there was basically no one else able to have him so we took him in. Then we moved to a bigger house and decided that this is what we'd like to do. We got a great big six bedroom house - we may as well fill it with chilldren!

What's the most amount of children you've had in your home at any one time?
With my own children that would be nine.

What was it like looking after nine kids? What was their age range?
Their age ranged from zero - newborn - to 15, 16 years. It was chaotic, but it was wonderful. The laughter and playing games and everybody mixing together. It was wonderful. It was hard work, but wonderful.

How do your own kids feel when they’ve got other children in the house?
They're fine. We do speak to the children. We do involve them and tell them what will be happening.They love it. They get quite attached as well, so much so that my second daugher, she's 12, and she's always absolutely heartbroken when the children leave.

The youngest one, she's eight, she gets a little bit jealous if you like. Not towards me, but with Dad. You know, if anyone's sharing her daddy she's not very happy about that.

Gareth Gates with H and Claire
Gareth Gates mingles with fellow pop stars,H and Claire.

She's a daddy's girl?
Oh yeah (laughs) absolutely!

How do they feel about being in the same home as Gareth Gates?
They all love it. They get really excited and all leave really big fans of Gareth! Some girls that we used to look after, they've just got Gareth Gates posters all in their bedrooms now!

Are you able to keep in contact with the children once they've gone?
We do some of the children. Some parents like to forget that part of their life.

Although I tend to warm to the parents as well. I don't just take the children on, I also take the parents and so there are quite a few parents whose children I've fostered that I've become firm friends with.

We've only had one or two whose parents have wanted to forget that part of their life, but the rest of them we do keep in touch.

Have any parents been hostile to you and felt like you were taking over?
No, not really. The parents have just been so thankful, the ones that have wanted the children back have been so thankful that we have cared for them for them.

What's your message to people who are thinking about fostering?
Go for it. It’s absolutely fanatstic. I don't class it as a job. It's very rewarding. Just go for it!

We do need more foster carers because these children that cannot go into foster homes, go into children's homes. Although care homes these days are nice, it's nicer to go to a family.

Is there a certain type of person to be a foster parent?
You certainly don't need any qualifications, just general life skills, child care. You can be single, you can be married, you can be black, you can be white. You can have children of your own or no children. People from all walks of life are needed for foster carers.

Do you need lots of money to look after these children?
Not at all, you do get help. You don't have to do it on your own. Even if you are on benefits, you can still be a foster parent.

You can call the BBC's helpline
for free on 08000 934 934 or
look at www.bbc.co.uk/takingcare
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