Joanne and Stephen

Despite the difficulties, fostering a disabled child is the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done

For Joanne and Stephen Phillips, 2012 was a major turning point in their life – it was the year they applied to become foster carers. For Joanne, this opportunity was exactly what she’d been yearning for. Having previously worked in the care industry, her role at the time valeting motor homes, did not offer the level of job satisfaction that she desperately craved.

After seeing an advert in their local newspaper, the couple took some time to deliberate the practicalities of fostering. They decided that it was a win-win opportunity, allowing Joanne to return to a career in care while offered a loving, stable home for a child in need. From here, they contacted Fostering People, and were delighted when their application was successful.

Over the last six years, Joanne and Stephen have opened their home to eight young people on long-term placements and many others on short-term, respite arrangements. The couple currently fosters three young boys between the ages of one and nine. One of these boys has been with the couple for three years and suffers from learning difficulties. This placement was originally supposed to be respite, but soon became long-term after the child’s challenging behaviour improved dramatically under the couple’s care. Joanne and Stephen are currently in the process of making this a permanent arrangement, which will allow the child to remain with them until the age of 21.

For Joanne, watching young people blossom in her household has made fostering the greatest job she’s ever had. She said:

“Watching children achieve the unexpected is the best part about fostering. Small achievements, such as witnessing them read their first book or achieving their first educational award, are all huge milestones for these young people, yet they are accomplishments that so many others take for granted. There’s no greater sense of satisfaction than knowing that you’re making a difference to a child’s life.”

Joanne and Stephen did not plan to foster children with learning disabilities specifically, but were extremely happy to do so when the opportunity arose, and would certainly consider doing it again. Not ones to shy away from such challenges, the couple also took on a parent-child placement, in which the baby was deaf and the young mother was struggling to cope. The pair stayed with Joanne and Stephen for approximately six months, with Joanne offering help and support to the mother as she adjusted to her new role as a parent. Of this experience, Joanne said:

“That placement was extremely difficult at times, particularly at the start, as our help wasn’t always valued. However, it has proven to be one of our most rewarding placements to date. Stephen and I are still closely in touch with the family, and were delighted to be asked to be the baby’s Godparents earlier this year.”


Despite some of the challenges that accompany the role, the couple believe that nothing beats seeing young people grow and develop in themselves. Joanne, who wanted to become a foster carer as a way of helping people, hopes that sharing their story will inspire others to consider a career in fostering. “No other career offers the same level of job satisfaction. It’s honestly the best decision we’ve ever made, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Our evenings wouldn’t feel right without having all of our young people around our dinner table discussing their day, and Christmas and birthdays wouldn’t be worth celebrating without them. For us, it’s all about family time.”