Young lives transformed by Banbury foster carers

“We wanted to make a difference.” Those are the words that resulted in 17 young lives being transformed by Banbury foster carers Donna Mason and husband Michael Osborne.

Donna’s reason for wanting to become a foster carer reflects recent research by Oxfordshire County Council. The top three reasons people cite for the role are:

Believing they had something to offer children; wanting to help young people in care; and enjoying working with children.

The couple’s journey into fostering began because they wanted to help their now ten-year-old daughter, Poppy, to develop life skills by living with and sharing the experiences of other children, from many different backgrounds and circumstances.

“We can have up to three children, aged between two years and 18 years,” says Donna. “Our family size fluctuates as we also offer other types of fostering on an emergency and short-term basis.

“Since we began fostering in July 2016, three sisters have lived with us for nearly a year. On another occasion a five-year-old was welcomed into the family for many months.”

Donna is delighted with how Poppy benefits from the extended family:

“We’ve seen her confidence transformed,” says Donna. “She’s now more interested in what’s around her, what’s going on in the wider world; and probably has a broader outlook than many of her friends.

“This inquisitiveness helps her understand that there are many challenges as well as opportunities. It’s stimulated by day-to-day interaction with the foster children we welcome under our roof.”

Donna gushes enthusiasm, talking about the benefits to her and husband Michael:

“Fostering is so rewarding. It brings laughter and love through good and difficult times.

“We believe passionately that children deserve to have the best opportunities in life. We are there for them; to nurture, to make them feel safe and valued. To help them grow, to explore their interests and get them inspired, ready to succeed in adulthood.”

Donna works for Oxfordshire County Council, a foster friendly employer, in its adult social care team. Like many other employers across the county, her boss provides the flexibility she needs to balance a career, and to be a mum and foster carer by offering five additional days off for time off related to fostering.

She says:

“My manager is very understanding. If I need time off at short notice because we have an emergency placement, or a medical appointment for one of the foster children; no problems.

“It works both ways. I return to work inspired and motivated; even more determined to make a difference, because I’ve supported a young person through a difficult situation. Foster caring spurs you on in every aspect of your life.”

There has been a 66% increase in the number of children looked after in Oxfordshire since 2015. Two-thirds of them are over the age of ten.

But, Oxfordshire County Council is always on the lookout for more foster carers. The council provides different types of fostering to best meet the needs of both the children and the carer.

A generous allowance plus fees are offered alongside specialist training and support.

Lucy Butler, Director for Children’s Services at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We’re keen to hear from anyone interested. We have wonderful foster carers like Donna and her husband – but like all other parts of the country, we’re keen to recruit more. We’d love to hear from you.”

Facts about fostering:

  • You don’t need a specific qualification, once approved, carers are supported, and you are provided with training to help prepare you to foster. There are lots of other opportunities for training and learning.

  • There is no upper age limit to foster. You must be over 18. Oxfordshire County Council has foster carers who are in their 70s.

  • Single? Not a problem - children need stable loving homes by single parents and couples, whatever their gender or sexual orientation.

  • Disabilities or not, you can still foster - health problems and disabilities will not stop you from fostering, provided you can care for the children.

  • There are children from many different backgrounds needing to be fostered, what is important is that you can meet the needs of the child.

  • If you are renting your home and do not have a spare bedroom we can offer advice on how you may be able to receive assistance.

How to find out more:

For more information about becoming a foster carer in Oxfordshire, email fostering@oxfordshire.gov.uk or phone 0800 7835724.

Or visit the website: