A COUPLE from Tidworth are encouraging families to offer a loving home to vulnerable children by considering a career in fostering.

As part of Foster Care Fortnight, which runs from May 11 to 24, Nats Streatfeild, 45, and her husband Rupert, 40, who works as an Army officer, are sharing their experience in the hope it will inspire others.

The pair were approved as foster carers with Five Rivers Child Care, an independent fostering provider based in Salisbury, last year.

Since last September, they have been foster parents to a 16-year-old boy, whom they look after alongside their two birth children: Freddie, eight, and Arthur, six.

Speaking about their military lifestyle and fostering, Nats said: “In the beginning I’m not sure we really thought we would be considered as foster carers because we usually move every two years because of Rupert’s career.

"Even though I always stay at home, Rupert has done several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan so you never really know when he might be sent overseas again – he hasn’t been sent anywhere for a while but there is always that possibility that he could be deployed.

"However, Five Rivers were unbelievably supportive and encouraged us to begin the process very soon after we had made our initial enquiries with them.

“The military has also been fantastic in supporting us throughout the whole process. They always release Rupert for any preliminary fostering meetings, and now that we have Liam, they are really understanding when Rupert needs to be present for anything related to him. We really couldn’t ask for a better support network.”

When the whole family relocated to Tidworth from Salisbury earlier this year, Liam, which is not his real name, also decided to move with them.

Nats said: “Naturally we were thrilled and felt so privileged when Liam decided he would move with us. He will always be part our of family and we have told him that there will always be a room for him with us, no matter his age or where we are.”

Encouraging more families to consider fostering, Nats added: “We can’t think of life without Liam now, he is part of the family and he is truly blossoming – his attendance at college has gone from 0.6 percent to 100 percent and he’s passed two of his college courses with flying colours. Seeing Liam flourish in areas that he didn’t realise he could makes you realise that it’s the little things that make fostering so worthwhile.”

Jem Orman, Fostering Services Manager at Five Rivers Child Care across the South and South East, said: “Nats and Rupert Streatfeild are an amazing example of carers who are doing all they can to give vulnerable children and young people a loving home.

“The Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t stopped us recruiting foster carers, as the need for children and young people to have stable and caring foster carers has not diminished, and in some areas we have seen the need increase.

"We’ve also found that the lockdown period has given people the opportunity for reflection and time to think about future career paths, and becoming a foster carer is one option that more people are now considering.

"We have adapted the way in which we recruit foster carers as a result of the current situation and much of the process can be done virtually using video calls and interviews so I would urge people not to delay if they are interested in becoming a foster carer.

"We’re keen to hear from caring individuals who are interested in providing a nurturing home to children in need, whether they’re considering it for the first time or already have fostering experience."