PARENTS who realised their dream of fostering after battling a life-threatening cancer diagnosis have spoken out to encourage others to come forward amid a shortage of carers in the county.

Andy and Angie Cheeseman, who have four birth children and have fostered children for almost a decade say it is never too late to change lives.

Angie, from Bournemouth, who is a volunteer carer representative and a foster carer mentor, explained: “I’ve wanted to be a foster carer since I was 22 but it was that same year I was diagnosed and needed to be treated for cervical cancer. Years later my husband Andy and I were watching TV and a fostering advert appeared. Later that week my decision was cemented when Andy showed me a Foster Care Associates (FCA) advert in our local newspaper.

“Andy encouraged me to follow my dream and we decided that it was time to begin our fostering journey.”

The couple previously hosted foreign exchange students for twelve years and welcomed more than 600 students ranging from aged 11-18 into their home.

Since fostering they have cared for children for up to six years, mother and baby placements, teenagers and offered emergency care for children and young people in urgent need of a home.

She said: “Andy and I have often found that there’s always a reason behind why a young person might behave in a certain way. It is so rewarding when you come to an agreement and understanding with the young person in your care, it feels like a great achievement rather than giving up on them.”

With their support, one foster child gained seven GCSEs, full school attendance and has now completed an apprenticeship programme.

“He is an absolute credit to our family and fostering experience as a whole,” she said.

"I still keep in contact with my previous mother and baby placement and recently Andy and I were completely taken aback by a request we received from her. She called us to say she was getting married and asked if Andy would walk her down the aisle and give her away at her wedding. We knew she always saw me as a mother figure but we were incredibly surprised and overwhelmed by this request, of course Andy accepted and we cannot wait to be a part of her special day.

“Fostering isn’t for everyone, be as informed as possible before you make a decision to dedicate your life to children and young people. It’s best to hear first-hand about the fostering experience so speak to current foster carers and find out about the pro’s and con’s. We have our ups and downs but always get through challenging days knowing that we are part of a great community changing the lives of children and young people.’’

There is currently a shortage of foster carers in Bournemouth and across Dorset. For more information about becoming a foster carer with FCA, call 0800 022 4330.