One foster carer in Garston is urging others to consider opening their homes to foster children.

Soraya Alkunshalie, 53, has fostered 28 children since she began her career as a foster carer in 2010.

After spending some time in foster care herself as a child, it had always been something Soraya said she was passionate about.

The former pub manager, told the ECHO : "I was fostered myself for a short time because my sibling was poorly, me and my sister were fostered for a few months.

"My desire to foster stemmed from there."

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The 53-year-old has been fostering her current child for six years, the teenage boy is currently doing his GCSEs which Soraya finds massively rewarding.

She said: "He's studying for his GCSEs at the moment, watching him progress, go through school and grow up is such an amazing experience.

"For your child to have a good day is a massive reward."

Soraya wishes that she had started fostering earlier, saying that it is her only regret in life.

The 53-year-old said: "I started foster care when I was 42.

"The only thing I regret is not doing it sooner.

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"The assessment can be intrusive but it's important to overcome.

"[Fostering] is really hard but the rewards are countless everyday."

In her 11 years of fostering, Soraya has cared for mothers and their babies too.

She said: "A lot have been mum and baby, watching mums take their babies home is just amazing, beautiful."

If you're thinking about fostering, it might be more achievable than you think.

First, you have to be over the age of 21 with a good level of spoken and written English and a spare bedroom.

There are seven steps to fostering:

1. Talk to your local agency team

Fill out an enquiry form with your local team. There is then the option for a call back or an information pack.

Once you’re ready for a call, a member of your local agency team will call you back as soon as they can. They will go over the process again and you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions, for example about the fostering allowance or free training.

2. A home visit

During the home visit, a qualified member of the National Fostering Agency team will discuss your expectations of being a foster carer.

They will share more in-depth information about what the role of a foster carer entails. They will also talk about the importance of fostering and the circumstances that lead children into foster care.

3. Your fostering application form

The next step is to complete a foster carer application form. This will lead to you being assigned an assessing social worker, who will work with you on your assessment (known as a Form F).

4. Foster carer assessment

Over a course of eight to 10 weeks your social worker will make planned regular visits to assess you for the role.

You will also need to complete medical, financial and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.

5. Skills to foster

You complete a three-day course that consists of seven modules to train you properly as a foster carer.

6. Fostering Panel meeting

The purpose of the panel is so they can carry out one final check of all the information that has been gathered throughout the assessment process.

7. Your first child

Once you have completed these steps you will be matched with your first child who you can begin your fostering journey with.

For more information please contact the National Fostering Agency on 01925 286850 or visit their website which you can find here.