LAST year Phil Weston swapped his job of 15 years in a debt recovery unit for full-time fostering, having been told for years by friends and family that he was a natural with children.

It’s a decision he wishes he’d made sooner. But he was held back by fears he’d be turned down on the basis that most main caregivers are women. These fears were quickly allayed following a phone call to Kirklees Council’s fostering team, and now he’s backing calls by the authority for more people, including men, to take up fostering, particularly older children.

Phil, 49, has provided much-needed support and guidance to several older children. Kirklees Council has released an online video in which Phil opens up about the positive effect fostering has had on him, his wife, Becky, and 11-year-old son, Isaac, as well as the children he’s cared for.

“When I first enquired about becoming a foster carer I thought I wouldn’t qualify because I’m a man,” says Phil. “I guess I had my own misconceptions but far from being an issue, I was actually encouraged to apply by the fostering team at Kirklees.

“With my wife working fulltime as an advanced nurse practitioner and me facing redundancy it made more sense for me to be the main caregiver. I was in the minority when I went on the training courses but nobody made me feel uncomfortable. In fact the response has been really positive. I’ve had the odd curious glance from strangers when I’ve been with a child who doesn’t look like me, but I can’t say it’s been an issue.

“So far I’ve looked after two boys, aged 13 and 11. I suppose you could argue that being a male foster carer makes me more relatable to older boys, but ultimately it’s having a stable and loving environment that will make the biggest difference to a child.”

Locally and nationally there’s a chronic shortage of foster carers, particularly for children over the age of seven, who make up around 75 per cent of the 469 children currently in the Kirklees care system. Some are moved around foster homes and schools, often out of their area and away from everything they know.

“On paper the children I’ve looked after could be perceived as challenging, yet in reality it hasn’t been anywhere near as hard as I thought it would be,” says Phil.

Phil attributes much of his success as a foster carer to being young at heart: “Fostering has brought out my inner child but it’s also finding the balance between being that friend they need and someone who sets clear boundaries.

“I’ve seen gradual but definite progress in the children I’ve looked after. Where manners and basic hygiene might have been lacking, handwashing, ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ have soon become a given. I’ve seen instances where a child has struggled to make friends at school because of trust issues, and home routines have been non-existent. But with time and encouragement, friendships have been established and homework readily done without having to ask.

“And all this as a result of a child having someone in their life who believes in them and a home where there’s love, laughter, but equally, routine and boundaries. It’s also about taking small steps and setting achievable goals. Becky and I work on the basis that reward, rather than punishment, helps to motivate a child. From this we’ve seen them making the effort to become the best people they can be.”

Phil is now encouraging others to consider fostering and to not to put off taking the plunge as he did. “Foster caring is about so much more than looking after children. There’s so much scope to develop, whether it’s training courses, training other foster carers or sitting in on approval panels. If I could say one thing to anyone thinking of fostering it’s to look into it. You might find, like me, that making that initial call will set you on a path that will transform your life, as well as those of vulnerable children who need help.”

Andy Quinlan, acting fostering service manager from Kirklees Council, added: “Fostering is all about the level of care, love and attention an individual can provide to a child. But because fostering is traditionally perceived as a female profession many men are deterred from taking on the role as main caregiver. Yet male foster carers like Phil can play a vital role in the lives of children in care, particularly a child who has never had a positive male role model.

“It’s a difficult truth that older children tend to have more issues than younger ones as they’ve missed out on those essential building blocks for longer. They may have suffered more years of neglect and missed out on the love and attention children need. Often they come into care feeling very alone and might find it hard to make friends, especially if they’ve been moved around. But it’s never too late to start laying those foundations. The rewards in helping to turn a child’s life around are huge.”

l Find out about Phil’s fostering experiences in his video at For more about fostering call 0800 389 0086 or visit

Emma Clayton