Getting to know Herne Bay’s outstanding foster carers

Last October at the Kent Fostering Foster Carer Awards, Herne Bay residents Laura and Paul Calder received the Outstanding Care of Children accolade.

Closing in on nearly 10 years of fostering, CommunityAd caught up with Paul to find out more about his and Laura’s brilliant work, the rewarding aspects, long-term goals and what they enjoy most about living in our seaside town…


What made you and Laura first go into fostering?

Both myself and my wife historically performed roles that took us away from home for a considerable amount of time, myself as a Building and Retail Project Manager and my wife as an IT Consultant Project Manager (which she still performs). We both wanted a better work-life balance and to ultimately give back to the community.

Specifically, we wanted to help children, to provide advocacy for them and in particular children that are disadvantaged for many reasons, providing them with an environment where they feel secure, valued and loved. To help them develop and grow as individuals and enable them to reach their true potential whatever that may be, in a safe and caring/loving, stable environment.

As a couple and a family, we thought long and hard about the opportunity of fostering for approximately a year prior to attending an information event held in Herne Bay during an evening – this was exceptionally informative where we were able to engage with other foster carers and social workers and truly understand what the role entailed on a day-to-day basis. This solidified our decision, whereupon we embarked on the application process which took approximately 10 months, the process takes around 8 months now ensuring all the required detailed checks etc were undertaken and initial training and induction attended where you learn more about fostering as a career and where you develop further through excellent training some of the skills (that many individuals already have) that are required to foster.

The role is very dynamic, and every day can be different and brings its own challenges and rewards, there are many training courses (now virtual due to COVID-19) that are available to support carers and of course it is a continuing developing environment from a fostering perspective but also from a child’s perspective where you are continually learning which is great.


How did you both feel when you received the Outstanding Care of Children award?

We felt very honoured and privileged to have even been nominated for this award so to be actually awarded it is incredible to have the appreciation to the hard work, however, we do not do this for us as individuals. We do it for the children that we care for who need to be advocated for and to have that environment and platform to feel safe and secure and looked after so that they can live their childhoods and reach their potential as is the right for any individual.

There are challenges that come with the role – as with anything worth doing in life, and there have been many over the years – however as a family we are strong and we are a team, plus there is a huge amount of support from all agencies, social services, educational departments, hospitals, police, psychologists etc to work through the challenges and get to where we all need to be with the main priority being the children’s needs.

There is also amazing support from our own social worker and also our fellow carers who offer advice and support as needed.

Above all to witness the value that we add and the difference that we make to an individual child’s life, even if it is baby step milestones from holding a pencil for the first time to being able to just walk away from trouble or achieve their GCSEs and attend College fills us with so much pride of the huge steps forward that they have made and continue to make and the joy and laughter it brings – this is simply one of the best feelings and is wonderful.


What has been the most rewarding part of your fostering experience?

To see any child develop to be the best they can be, whatever that is, to reach their true potential and to know that you are the catalyst in making that happen and making that difference is thoroughly rewarding. And it is knowing deep down that without you their path in life may not have been the same.


What would you say are the key aspects behind ensuring that foster children not only have a wonderful opportunity in life with their family but also feel loved, cared for and respected?

As individuals, we are all different and we all have different needs and aspirations, and this is the same for the children that we look after and are part of our family. We adapt accordingly to their individual needs.

As with anyone, treating the children we foster with respect, love and care, and support for their aspirations coupled with strong boundaries, are the fundamental aspects that we provide to ensure that they have wonderful opportunities in life.

This in turn breeds mutual respect and a pathway of achievement for them to take with our support and guidance. Ultimately as carers, we have a motto that is “we do what we say” and we live by that and endeavour to instil that across our family, so the children do not get let down, and they learn to trust again. They then also learn to do what they say which builds a good foundation for their adult life.


Do you have any long-term goals in fostering for the next 5-10 years? 

Many think that fostering has no career progression, but there is a progression through the levels from foundation to advanced skills. Furthermore, there are additional avenues you can pursue and add value to such as being a peer mentor to other foster carers and an Ambassador – both of which I undertake.

I am currently classified as a Level 2 carer and I am working to achieve Level 3 carer within the next two years.


What do you enjoy most about living in Herne Bay?

We moved to Herne Bay from South London nearly 20 years ago and we have never looked back. Being by the seaside and close to countryside we consider to be very fortunate, plus the fact that we love Herne Bay town and the community feel that it has with a slower pace of life yet with all the close amenities and support needed that a local town provides.

Where we live everyone looks out for each other, and it is as a result a perfect place to live and bring up a family with lots of activities for children and the family to undertake (COVID allowing). There are excellent schools in the local area, plus easy access to key clubs such as football, swimming at the Heron pool and something all our children thoroughly enjoy, Martial Arts through Matt Fiddes Kent – all in very easy reach. All have remained in contact with us as a family, watching our children grow and develop, again with that community spirit.


CommunityAd congratulates Paul and Laura on their award and thanks them, and all other foster carers, for their hard work and dedication. To find out more about becoming a foster carer yourself, visit the Kent County Council website and search ‘foster care’, or click here.

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