There aren’t many 16-year-olds who enjoy doing their own cooking and ironing but Aidan is grateful to be learning new skills and looking after himself.
In the 18 months he’s been living in Leigh with foster parents Sue and Bill, he’s transformed from a shy teenager to a confident young adult and he’s enjoying having the freedom and support to make his own decisions.
Aidan was in a residential setting out of the borough before coming to live with Sue and Bill and quickly settled in to his new family life with the couple, who have been fostering for four years.
Aidan said: “It was difficult at the start but everything quickly settled down and living with Sue and Bill I got a lot more freedom, more choice and a better chance to do things.
“I felt like I wasn’t in control before but I have responsibility now. I used to get everything done for me but I do it myself now and I appreciate it.”
It was the opportunity to take part in an eight-week cookery project, ran by Wigan Council, which led Aidan to discover his love for cooking, something he wants to continue with at college, and gave him chance to showcase his passion for music.
The memory of that shy teenager was firmly in the past when he played the guitar and sang in front of crowds at a youth parliament event last year.
“I never thought from cooking I’d be playing the guitar and singing in front of other people”, Aiden said. “It was fun. I would definitely do it again!”
The transformation in Aidan has been guided by Sue and Bill who support him every step of the way.
It was a visit to Sue’s brother and his husband, who are respite foster carers, that first inspired her to think about fostering when she built a bond with the young person they were looking after.
Sue, aged 54, said: “I thought if this is what you feel when fostering, it feels good and it feels right. So I went home, asked Bill and we went for it. We went on holiday before starting our adventure and came back to dozens of messages from the fostering service!”
With a grown up son of their own the couple were well equipped to handle any teenage behaviour. Aidan is the second teenage boy they have fostered.
Sue continued: “We put in the boundaries from day one, as we did with our own son. We’ve made sure we have house rules. We work together as a team, we’re open and honest in our house, we welcome people into our home. We are a normal household.
“We make sure Aidan has responsibilities and help him learn life skills. He does his own ironing, washing, cooking and cleaning. We keep him busy!”
Bill, aged 56, said: “We decided to foster teenage boys. People think they’re tearaways but that just isn’t the case. Aidan’s been with us for 18 months. It’s so rewarding to see how they change and grow. It’s good to see, especially when they start repeating what you say!”
The couple hope to continue their fostering journey and are looking forward to opening up their loving home to more young people in the future.
Sue said: “Our favourite thing about fostering is what you get back from the kids. It’s the achievements when you see them succeed and the trust they give you.
“We just give them a normal, happy, safe, childhood.
“Aiden grew in cooking ability but also got a lot more from the sessions than just cooking. It’s been amazing to see his journey in such a short period of time.”
And that happy home has given Aidan the support he needed to flourish.
Aidan said: “I’ve grown in confidence. I feel more confident asking for things, in restaurants for example, and in doing new activities that I wouldn’t normally do.
“School has been a lot easier and I think I’ve calmed down a lot. I am really enjoying it.”
Jenny Bullen, cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Wigan Council, said:
“It can be daunting to begin with but Sue, Bill and Aidan are a brilliant example of how if you take the plunge and give fostering a chance it can be life-changing.
“Through The Deal for Foster Carers, we’re committed to ensuring our foster carers have the right training and support so they can provide the best home for our young people.
“We need more foster carers to give loving homes to our young people and hope people feel inspired to start their fostering journey.”
Find out more about Wigan Council’s fostering service.