Women that WOW

This year alone in the UK, around 36,000 children* and young people will enter the care system.

That's 100 children every day, 100 new broken families, and 100 personal stories. At the moment, there are around 103,000 children in the UK who are looked after away from home - these stats are both astonishing and heart-wrenching. 70% of children taken into care live with a foster family and in 2023 there are 43,905 fostering households and 61,360 foster carers in England alone.

This year, for international women’s day, we’re shining the spotlight on our very own wonder-woman, a member of the WOW team who has made it her personal mission to give some of these children the support they need.

Krystell, WOW facial’s Quality & Regulatory Affairs Manager, a birth mother of three aged 4, 12 and 13, says “I began realising just how many kids out there really need a safe home”, and as she had a spare room, she made the decision to open the door to her family home and begin fostering. “I wanted to offer some of these children opportunities to grow and embrace life”, explains Krystell.
Krystell and her husband
Krystell and her husband

“Every child placed for adoption will have a unique set of experiences that will shape their understanding and identity. All have experienced a level of trauma and separation, even children who have been in foster care from birth. Many will have had an unsettled or chaotic start in life, and may have suffered neglect or abuse in their early months and years. All of this will affect each child throughout their life, in different ways at different times.” - Home For Good

We asked Krystell how her birth children have adjusted to having new family members, “My children adjusted to sharing us with other children quite quickly. My youngest is happier with other children in the house that he can play with and create lots of noise.” Since opening her home to foster children back in 2021, the shortest time a child has stayed with Krystell’s family was just four weeks over a Christmas period, and the longest stay has been the three kids she has with her family now, who have been with them for 13 months - three siblings, aged one, four and seven. Krystell can take up to three children at any one time, and to date has cared for 6 children between the ages of 6 months to 12 years old, however, she can take children up to the age of 17 which is the oldest anyone can offer children in need a home.

Every year, over 10,000 young people in England age out of the care system every year on their 18th birthday with care leavers making up 25% of the homeless population. Sadly, 7% of care leavers aged 17 years; 4% of care leavers aged 18 years and 6% of care leavers aged 19-21 are living in accommodation considered to be unsuitable.” - Home For Good
Krystell's youngest birth son, aged 4.
Krystell's youngest birth son, aged 4.

When social workers feel that adoption is in the best interests of the child, the local authority, Lancashire in Krystell’s case, will apply to the family court for a placement order, which allows them to seek an adoptive family for the child. Krystell says, “Being a foster carer gives me a sense of achievement, I know I am making a positive difference in a young person's life and even though it may be a small part of their growth, I hope that small part is a happy memory. We don’t just open our home but also our hearts, it’s not just me who is fostering, it’s our whole family, including our extended family, everyone welcomes the children we care for as if they were our own.”

In some cases, children may be placed for adoption at the request of, or in agreement with, their birth parents, but in most cases, the children are placed following court processes whereby the parental rights and responsibilities are removed from their birth parents. Krystell explains, “One of the biggest challenges has been learning to work with children that have experienced trauma. Trauma can be very complex, so it’s not easy to learn - it takes a lot of understanding and training to be the best you can be, to support the children in the best way possible.”

Krystell continues, “If you are thinking about fostering, know it is both challenging and rewarding. I recommend researching trauma and therapeutic parenting, as it really helps you along the way to have that information, even if the reality can sometimes be different from the textbook. The advice I was given was to have a list of questions ready for when the phone call comes. This is important as you need to know that you can meet the needs of the child(ren) that you are looking after.” She explains, “When we get a call, they let us know who they have that needs a safe loving space - but, sadly, you can’t say yes to every child, as you need to consider the current family dynamics, and whether that child will fit in the home and be happy with you. It's a huge responsibility, and meeting the needs of the children you are caring for has to be the absolute priority at all times.”

Krystell explains, “Emergency cases are seeking somewhere safe to place a child whilst social workers assess the future of the child(ren) through court and decide whether they will go into long-term foster care, for adoption or reunification back with their birth parent(s). So it's implicit that we support family time throughout a child’s stay with us to ensure a strong bond with their birth family is maintained, incase the outcome is that they will go back home.”

“We love fostering, we have a big online support network, and there are many foster carer groups. In the beginning, we were given a mentor to support us, she still supports us now, and will always be available if we want to chat. Our mentor gave us advice when it got tough and offered knowledge from real-life experience, as they know how tough it is raising kids, managing appointments, and attending 'family time sessions several times a week to make sure a strong family bond is maintained for the little ones.” Krystell continues, “For me, the most rewarding part of being a foster carer whilst having my own children at home is seeing the growth in the children we look after, and the growth in my birth children too. My birth children see first-hand that things aren’t always easy for everyone.”
Right now, across the UK, there's an urgent need for thousands more foster carers. Every child needs the same things to thrive; somewhere stable to call home, an environment that feels safe, and someone to turn to when things are difficult. We couldn’t be prouder of Krystell and the amazing work she is doing to help some of the children that need a safe place to call home.  Thank you for sharing your story Krystell! You are an inspiration and we are so lucky to have you on team WOW! 
If you’re interested in fostering, or you’d like to know more, visit: homeforgood.org.uk 
*Stats taken from homeforgood.org.uk