A dedicated foster parent from Slough has been talking about her life, as the Barnardo's children's charity launches a campaign to encourage others to follow in her footsteps.

Foster carer Stephanie, 57, said: “I worked in the prison service for 17 years as a prison counsellor and was made very aware of the situations which led to young people committing offences.

"The majority were lone parenting, excluded from schools, involved in gangs and generally just followed a similar pattern of behaviour. I used to see the same young people coming into prison; I would work with them for six months and then after that there was no further support available and so the cycle would begin again.

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"I really wanted to be able to better support these young people and so I left the prison service and became a full time foster carer with Barnardo’s."

She has since taken nine placements aged 12 to 18.

She said: "I work with the young people on independent living skills and after they leave me I hope they can progress onto the next stage in their lives. I do keep in touch with them and it is lovely when they come back to see me. One of them has just had a baby which is fantastic.

"Fostering is incredibly rewarding but it does pose challenges, particularly with the young people who I tend to look after. They are often institutionalised and lack trust in you which you need to try and build over time.

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"It is very difficult for the prison service to support these young people when they leave and because I understand the challenges they face – colour, attitudes, changing schools, education, I work hard with them to empower them to do better. I could talk all day about being a foster carer and the huge impact it has on my life and about the young people who stay with me. It isn’t easy but it is very rewarding.”

To find out more about becoming a foster carer or the support Barnardo’s can offer visit: www.barnardos.org.uk/foster or call 0800 0277 280.