Fostering Fortnight: Meet the woman who grew up surrounded by fostered children - and the couple whose busy lives hasn’t stopped them becoming foster carers

A woman who went on to dedicate her working life to supporting vulnerable children has told her experiences as a child in family who fostered more than 300 children.

And a Redcar family with very busy lives who have recently become foster carers have also spoken of their new roles to encourage more people to consider becoming foster carers.

Amanda Baxtrem, the Council’s Project Manager for No Wrong Door (which supports children on the edge of care) and Children Social Work Academy (which supports new social workers), explained that fostering is very close to her heart as her parents fostered for 30 years.

Amanda explained that since she was very young, she and her family had children coming in and out of the house, from babies to teenagers, some of them only staying for an emergency weekend while others stayed for years.

She said: 

“Fostering to me was all I’ve ever known. I remember waking up in the morning and there would be a baby in the house. One thing I’ll never forget is the joy I felt as a child to be part of that.”

Amanda’s parents, who retired from fostering at 75, have always involved her and her older brother, Gordon, in the entire process, making sure both of them are happy and comfortable at all times. Being included in every conversation was of a great importance to Amanda, making her feel understood, appreciated and taken into consideration.

She added:

“Those who want to become foster carers have to understand that your birth children and your family members will become part of that journey with you. My parents fostered hundreds of children, but I can probably remember all their names because they all became part of our lives.

“Fostering can be for anybody, whether you’re working, not working, single or married. What matters is having a spare bedroom and being able to give a child the time, support and nurture they need and deserve.

“Fostering is rewarding and empowering. It makes you feel invigorated, and it allows you to give an amazing gift to a child: love and support.”


Also telling their story for Fostering Fortnight – a national campaign to celebrate foster carers – are Redcar couple, Mandy and Ian Wagner.

They explained that working in demanding jobs and running a busy home hasn’t stopped them from becoming foster carers.
“It can be hard work…and it’s not all baking cakes and buying flowers, by any means,” smiles Mandy, “but we love it. To see the difference in some of the children, the smiles coming back, it’s incredibly rewarding.”
Ian, originally from South Bank, nods in agreement. “I have a full time job as an engineer at Alsom Transport down in Derby and quite often have to go to other parts of the country. Mandy is a health care assistant in the neuro department outpatients at James Cook Hospital. We have four grown up children nearby, and grandchildren, including a five-month-old. So, there’s a lot on.
But it’s really a lot like having a family - it just takes a bit of support and planning, although having a family support network is a big help.”
Mandy, who has qualifications in counselling, explained that the couple have been fostering mainly teenagers so far in the past year.
“At my job, we work with brain and spinal patients,” said Mandy. “We do demanding assessments for surgery and it’s often hard both emotionally and physically. Coming home to the children often takes my mind off the hard day we may have had.”
Ian says the support networks from both the Council’s fostering team and more experienced, foster carers have helped a lot. “They offer advice and reassurance. It takes time to get confidence, you think, ‘am I getting this wrong?,’ and the support you get is really helpful.”
Mandy again stresses the positive. “Even if you’ve just let a child be warm and safe for one night, that’s worth it. But when you see them starting to smile, gain confidence…it’s wonderful.”

Councillor Luke Myer, Cabinet Member for Children, said:

“Amazing people like the Wagner family who have opened their home to children and our manager Amanda Baxtrem who works every day to help them are vitally important - and I would like to take this chance to thank them on behalf of all those they do so much to help. Foster carers come from all walks of life and there are many different types of foster care, from long term to respite and for all ages of children. If you think you could give support to some of our most vulnerable children and young people, please get in touch.”
 If you have a spare bedroom and are able to offer a child or young person a warm, supportive and understanding home, please contact the fostering team on 01642 444087 or visit