A woman from Teesside is urging others to consider a career in fostering as the pandemic has resulted in many people across the UK looking for a career change.

With over 35% of people feeling unsatisfied in their current jobs, and 20% of people planning to switch to a career that helps others, a foster mum is calling on people across the North East to consider a rewarding career in fostering as the number of children and young people needing a safe place to live continues to rise.

Farrah Grieve, 43, from Stockton-on-Tees, who left her job as national sales manager for a global container company, has always wanted to foster but never felt she could due to the travel demands and long hours of her job.

A big career change

Farrah had been at the container company for 14 years and was looking to do something more rewarding. Farrah trained a lot of young apprentices as a sales manager, which was one of the things that inspired her to become a foster carer as she loved helping teenagers.

Farrah and her husband, Tony, 42, a business development manager for Motor Parts Direct, started their training during lockdown in 2020. The couple were approved to foster in November 2020 with Five Rivers Child Care – an independent fostering provider and social enterprise – which has offices in Stockton-on-Tees and foster carers across the North East.

The couple have been fostering teenager, Michael* for 13 months, on a long-term basis which means he will stay with the couple until he turns 18 or can live independently. Farrah and Tony also have one child together, Louis, who’s 10 years old.

Foster Carers Farrah and Tony Grieve from Teesside

Speaking about her decision to leave her position as national sales manager and become a foster carer, Farrah said: “I loved my job in sales, but I felt I’d got as much out of it as I could, and fostering was always in the back of my mind.

“I didn’t think I would be able to do the training alongside my job, because I travel a lot and it just seemed impossible, so I kept putting it off. When lockdown hit it just felt like a perfect opportunity, I had the flexibility of being at home to work and train at the same time. Being at home also made me realise how much of Louis’ life I was missing out on, which just pushed me to take on fostering full-time.”

“I was an only child, and I wanted Louis to have a sibling that could look out for him, or he could look out for. I think it’s so sad that there are so many kids out there that need love and a home. We were at the stage in our lives where we were able to offer Michael* a better one.”

“I think it’s so sad that there are so many kids out there that need love and a home. We were at the stage in our lives where we were able to offer Michael a better one.”

Although Farrah started training alongside her job as a national sales manager, she realised that the pros of being a full-time foster carer massively outweighed that of continuing as a national sales manager and was determined to dedicate her time to build a loving and supportive family for Michael*.

“Watching Michael* grow into such a lovely young man is the most rewarding thing in the world. He had no confidence when he first came to us, but we’ve encouraged him to dream big and go after anything he wants and he’s now achieving more in school and sees a brighter future for himself.”

Michael* loves to cook, and he, Farrah and Tony take it in turns to cook a meal each once a week. Farrah adds: “He’s getting better and better – at the cooking and the clean-up, and he’s got a real flair for it and loves it so much that he asks to cook on our nights, too.”

A family of four

“Michael* has become such a good big brother to Louis, they just adore each other. Michael often helps Louis with his homework and will watch his favourite films with him. It’s amazing to see how safe Louis feels with him. We’ve got such a good dynamic together, and we couldn’t love Michael* more if we tried. He’s completed our family.”

Offering advice to anyone considering a career change to fostering, Farrah said: “Don’t put it off because you feel you don’t have time, or you don’t have the skills. That’s what Five Rivers are there for, they accommodate training around times that suit you, and they’re always there to support you.

“Don’t put it [fostering] off because you don’t feel you have the time or the skills.”

“I thought that lockdown was the perfect opportunity for us to start training, but honestly, I could have done it while I was still working and travelling, because Five Rivers will help you every step of the way. I wish I had done it sooner.”

“The qualifications, support and resources provided by Five Rivers have made us even more confident in our ability to care for Michael* and make sure we’re giving him the support he needs. Watching Michael* grow, achieve, and believe that he’s capable and deserves a loving family has been the most rewarding feeling in the world. No other job can match it.” 

Foster carers needed

The number of children needing foster care in the UK has risen by 36% in the last year. With more children and young people in need of a loving and safe home, fostering offers flexible working, a competitive fostering allowance and the comfort of working from home because of the constant demand for carers. It’s a vocation which can be done from home and is suitable for singletons, couples, and families alike.

Commenting on Farrah’s journey as a foster carer, Joyce Virth, Fostering Team Manager at Five Rivers Child Care for the North East, said: “Farrah and Tony have done an amazing job at welcoming Michael* into their home and given him stability and love which has helped him flourish.

“Being a foster carer might seem worlds away from Farrah’s previous job, but she has so many transferable skills, such as her experience of working with trainees, that have helped her become a great foster carer. Although being a foster carer expands beyond a traditional nine to five job, making a positive impact to a child’s life can be extremely rewarding.

“The pandemic has changed how people want to live their lives and has reminded us that life is too short to not do something you love. And with more people inspired by the pandemic, there is a renewed sense of life to help others and to be in a job that feels rewarding.

“Fostering with Five Rivers Child Care offers flexible working, a competitive fostering allowance and the comfort of working from home. There is no need for previous experience, and you may find that you have transferable skills from current or past employment that will be invaluable to you as a foster carer. We offer 24/7 support from qualified and experienced staff and a wide range of specialist training.”

Get involved

People from across England, from all backgrounds and communities can be considered to become foster carers but they must be over 21 years of age. This includes single people, co-habiting couples, LGBTQ+ couples and people living in rented accommodation. You will need a spare room for each foster child.

For more information on foster care, contact Five Rivers Child Care on 01642 695 247, email carer.enquiries@five-rivers.org or visit www.five-rivers.org.

*Please note, names have been changed to protect the identities of the children in care.