As the nation prepares to celebrate Father’s Day, a foster father from Wigan is calling on other men in the area to think about taking on non-traditional parenting roles as the North West faces an ongoing shortfall of 1,190 carers.
Chris Chatterley, who began fostering eight years ago, shares his inspiring story of leaving a traditional career to become a full-time carer and father and opening up his home to vulnerable children and young people.
Other news: Brazen thieves steal shop's ATM then flee to Wigan
The 61-year-old and his wife Janet, who have four adult children of their own, first considered fostering when Chris worked as a prison escort and then a custody officer with Lancashire police.
Chris said: “There were many times when I saw young people processed in the system for the first time, and all I could think about was wanting to give them a second chance and how I could potentially help people like that.”
Not long after, Chris and Janet met two social workers from Safehouses Fostering, an independent agency based in Oldham, by chance on holiday. Shortly after they returned home, the couple submitted their application to become carers.
In 2011, Chris and Janet were approved to begin their fostering journey with Safehouses Fostering and have since looked after 33 young people and children providing respite and short-term care to offer their regular carers a break.
As part of this, the couple often take in foster children if they require an emergency placement, meaning they can receive a call in the middle of the night for someone in need of an urgent foster home.
They have also provided parent-and-child placement care, a specialist type of fostering where a young parent or parents and their baby stays with foster carers when they’re in need of extra help and support.
The parent and child usually live with the foster carers for 12 weeks to assess if the parent(s) are able to live independently with their child and the aim is always to keep them together as a family unit where possible.
In 2012, Chris quit the police to become a full-time foster carer and enable the couple to take on longer-term placements.
He said: “I used to work night shifts and by the time I was home everyone was out at school or out of the house. I felt like I wasn’t spending quality time with the young people we were caring for.
“Now that I am a full-time carer, I am able to do things with them and help them grow and evolve as people and as parents.
“I love taking the younger children out fishing and teaching them how to catch their first fish.”
The couple are currently caring for a group of three siblings, two-year-old Ben, four-year-old Theo and 10-year-old Ellie (not their real names). The group of three have been with Chris and
Janet for just under two months and will remain in their care until a decision is made about their future.
Chris said: “Life as a full-time carer has been much more fulfilling than my previous and more traditional career in the police department. Providing care and watching these children grow and change has been incredible.
“To any men who are thinking of becoming a foster carer, go in to it with your eyes open and always remember to have an open mind.”
For more information about fostering, contact Safehouses on 01457 829111 or visit www.safehousesfostering.org.uk