THEY have been foster carers for just 18 months, but for Sarah-Jane and Peter Bardsley there’s no going back.

Opening their home and their hearts to children who need help, understanding and a place of safety has transformed their lives.

“It’s partly a job that makes me feel valued. It’s also giving something back,” said Sarah-Jane, who lives near Chippenham.

She and Peter are registered with Community Foster Care and are proud to be supporting Foster Care Fortnight, which runs until May 27.

Sarah-Jane always wanted a big family.

“When we were trying to have children of our own, we struggled. So we looked at adoption and fostering – in case it couldn’t happen,” she said.

“Then we were lucky enough to have our son Mackenzie who’s now 13, then our daughter Ebony two years later.”

The option of fostering cropped up again when the couple moved house in 2012 and took on a derelict farmhouse as a refurbishment project. At the time Sarah-Jane had a career in childcare.

“I couldn’t do childminding with the building work all around us so for a few years I worked in pre-schools and nurseries. Then we started thinking about fostering again and felt the children were at an age where they could understand,” said Sarah-Jane.

“They’d been used to having a house full of children because of my childminding days and they’d met cared-for children at school – they were fine about it.”

The couple completed Royal Wootton Basset-based agency Community Foster Care’s training programme and were approved in November 2016. Their first child – a nine-year-old boy – arrived three months later.

“He came as an emergency placement for the weekend and stayed for five months,” said Sarah-Jane.

Now they have a baby gurgling happily on a playmat on the living room floor. She will stay until she is six months old before going to her new adoptive parents.

“We were asked if we could take a new-born baby who was due in a few weeks’ time. We said ‘yes’. Then a few minutes later, we got an email to say the baby had been born prematurely. We met her when she was one week old and, after visiting her daily, we brought her home at three weeks,” said Sarah-Jane.

“She’s absolutely no trouble – apart from waking up in the night but all babies do that.

“Ebony and Mackenzie are really good with her – they help with baths and Mackenzie likes to prop her up and dance around her to keep her entertained.

“Giving her up will be difficult, but we have always known she isn’t ours.

“People do ask why we don’t adopt her ourselves. I really dislike that question. I would love to adopt her and lots of other children that I’ve looked after but that’s not my role.

“We wanted to foster to help children and families in whatever way we could. If a long-term foster child comes along, great. But, for a baby the best thing is for them to be adopted and that takes time, so they need families like ours who can provide love, warmth and stability, strong bonds and attachments.

“We’re just doing our best to make sure she has the best start in life in preparation for her new forever home.”

Both Peter and Sarah-Jane are keen to be open about fostering which, because of the need for confidentiality, is often talked about in whispers.

“It’s very rewarding – knowing that you can make a difference by giving children a good start in life and offering them a different viewpoint,” said Peter, who works in IT.

“I can go somewhere in my work capacity and they see me as a corporate representative. The minute I mention that we are foster carers, it breaks down barriers and relationships can change in an instant.

“Fostering touches so many people’s lives in many ways. It’s amazing how much support you get when you talk about it. People are very kind and generous. So I think we should be more open – foster carers don’t wear a badge, do they?”

They count themselves lucky that they have lots of family support.

“When a family fosters the whole family fosters,” said Sarah. “The children we take into our homes attend family events and when relatives come to visit they are treated as our own.”

Sarah-Jane’s mum gets a special mention. “She is very hands-on with practical support, particularly when Pete is working away. She comes over and helps keep the children occupied and they all love her - she brings a different dimension to the household!”

They are also pleased with the support they get from Community Foster Care, an independent, not-for-profit agency. “Our social worker comes to see us every three weeks and is always at the end of the phone if we need help and advice,” said Sarah-Jane.


Notes to Editors:

About Community Foster Care and Community Family Care:

 Wiltshire: Lime Kiln House, Lime Kiln, Royal Wootton Bassett SN4 7HF. Phone: 01793 858232

 Gloucestershire:

The Hawthorns, Hawthorns Lane, Staunton, Gloucester GL19 3NY Phone: 0800 0124278

 Cumbria: 40 Peart Road, Derwent Howe, Workington, Cumbria CA14 3YT. Phone: 01900 68453

 Lancashire: Alston House, Office no. 6-2-7, White Cross, Quarry Road, Lancaster LA1 4XQ. Phone: 01524 489388

 Community Foster Care is an independent foster care agency providing professional foster care for looked-after children.

 Community Foster Care has been working with foster carers in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire since 1999 and with carers in Cumbria since 2009. A Lancashire office opened in May 2012.

 It is a registered charity and a not-for-profit company, with a Board of Trustees made up of community leaders, childcare specialists including a nominated foster carer from the Agency.

 Community Family Care is a sister charity providing support programmes for families facing social or economic challenges.

 The Chief Executive and nine staff members are based in Staunton, Gloucestershire, and Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire with a further five staff members based in Lancashire and Cumbria. Five people work for sister agency Community Family Care, based in Gloucestershire.

 CFC seeks to secure foster carers within the community, recruiting and training carers and provides foster care placements to local authorities in England and Wales.

 Community Foster Care first gained Investors in People recognition in 2005 through the Small Firms Initiative (SFI) programme and was reviewed in 2008 and 2011.

 Community Foster Care was the first foster care charity to receive the Social Enterprise Mark in 2009. The Department for Trade and Industry defines a social enterprise as “a business with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.” (Social Enterprise: a strategy for success, 2001). The Social Enterprise Mark is a fair-trade-style identity which offers clients an assurance that companies carrying the mark are using their profits to tackle a social or environmental need and are governed in a way that benefits their communities.


 For more information: contact 01452 849301 or

 Media contact: Anita Syvret, 01242 228539, 07718 152153