Andy Hider Receives MBE after 35 Years
My Story, 35 years long…
After my marriage broke down in 1981, I found myself struggling financially. With 3 young sons to raise I knew I needed to be a full-time mum, but the reality of my situation was I also needed to work and quickly.
It was while I was visiting my local library that a leaflet fell out of a book about fostering teenagers. It immediately struck me, and I found myself transported back to my teen years and how I loved that time of my life; I have always had a deep connection with teenagers.
Following my initial enquiry, I was invited to an open day. The event was informal and very informative; however, I still went away a little unsure of whether to pursue this as a career. But with my son’s encouragement to give it a go and a timely call from the social worker at the event I decided to go for it.
Whilst the accreditation to becoming a foster carer was robust it was also quite cathartic process and in just 6 months, I had completed the all the training and had my first placement.
One thing that people always ask me about is the effect on my birth children, and what I say to them is that I didn’t foster alone; we were a family that fostered. There were times when I did feel guilty that my sons had to share me, but I believe that the fostering has turned them into much more rounded and caring adults. It was my son Ben who nominated me for my MBE.
I am now 75 and still fostering but this is my last placement. I did try to retire when I was 60; I had a big farewell party, but then the agency asked if I would continue with some respite care and recruit and train new foster carers. But the inevitable happened and a young person needed an urgent placement, so I came out of retirement.
Over the last 35 years that I have been fostering I look back at times and think, ‘how did I do that?!’ but when the kids (now adults!) ring me up and say things like, ‘I would give anything to come back and live at yours!’ Or they would tell me ‘it was the happiest time of their life’ – that is when I know I have made a difference.
I have fostered over 150 teenagers and I’m still very passionate about it and will continue to support Amicus in recruiting people into this vocation.
And to you reading my story and thinking about fostering I understand that the first step can be hard, but you are not committing to anything you are just fact finding and all agencies will understand that. My advice is to speak to another foster carer and hear about their experiences. Fostering has enhanced my life beyond anything else I’ve done, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.