SHE has been helping vulnerable babies and children who are most in need for 35 years.
Over that time Southampton foster carer Gillian White has looked after more than 200 children, earning praise from the city council.
And now she is encouraging more people to sign up as council foster carers to ensure children in the city are brought up in a safe and loving environment.
Gillian said: “I became a foster carer because I wanted to make a difference to the lives of children who had difficulties at home. I am fortunate enough to have the time to commit to fostering and am able to offer children a safe environment in which to grow.
“Depending on the child’s situation and age being fostered can be confusing and distressing.
Often a social worker can help prepare them but other times you are really stepping in to ease an emergency situation.
“It gives me a buzz to know I am making a difference and to know the child is either able to return home or go to new parents for a better life. Seeing the children grow in confidence and meet milestones in their development brings a huge amount of job satisfaction.”
Gillian believes fostering has made her a better person and has also allowed her to make new friends and offer support to other carers through joining a local network.
She added: “I have come to realise anyone who wants it enough can change their life for the better.
I once worked with a whole family for over a year, working closely with the mother.
“It was brilliant to help her grow in confidence and take some of my advice on board.
“Her children were able to be returned to her care, which I was really proud of.
“There are children within families whose needs are not being met. Every child deserves the same chances and to live in a safe, loving environment. As a foster carer you can provide this for them while work is done with their parents or extended family or while a new home is found for the children.”
Gillian added finances and training are much less of an issue than when she started because of help from the council, which provides a maintenance allowance and a supervising social worker to help develop skills.
Gillian currently looks after three young children while acting as an advisor to other carers.
Anyone interested in becoming a foster carer should contact the city council on 0800 519 1818 or visit southampton.gov.uk.