Ben Sheridan was 13 when he was placed into care.
He had been living with his nan in Cheltenham who could no longer care for him because of illness.
“I was told I’d be going into care for a short period,” said Ben, now 20.
“It was a bit daunting. I had no idea what it would be like. But my social worker explained it was only for 28 days to begin with, then it would all be evaluated. So I thought I might as well roll with the punches.”
Punches were not what came his way.
The first foster carers to welcome Ben into their home were Steve and Wendy Impey who have been carers with Community Foster Care for almost 20 years and have looked after more than 15 children.
Ben’s 28-day trial period came and went. And seven years later, he is still with Mr and Mrs Impey, living independently in their annexe and making his own way in the world.
“When I first arrived, Wendy was in the kitchen and Steve was at work. Their son was 22 and living in the annexe which is now my own home. There was another cared-for child on the computer in the living room. It was like walking into an everyday household.
“I moved my stuff into my own room, and that was it.
“For the first two weeks I spent most of my time on my games console. I didn’t know anyone in Gloucester - it was the school holidays and my school was in Cheltenham.
“It was another cared-for child who dragged me out and helped me get to know people. He was 16. Now he’s 23 and like my big brother. It was through him that I made the best mates that I’ve still got today.
“When my nan got ill, I realised that everything was about to change. I had to grow up a bit quicker than most to handle the process better but it was ok. It was just circumstances - and how you handle those circumstances is what makes you the person you are.
“At the end of that first month, I was asked if I wanted to stay. I liked how things were going so I thought ‘why spoil a good thing?’
“My home with Steve and Wendy became a permanent placement. And from then on I had a pathway plan - there were meetings every six months with social workers and Community Foster Care to make sure everyone was happy.”
At 18, Ben had left school with six GCSEs and was no longer part of the care system. He moved into supported lodging (the annexe) and spent two years at Hartpury College studying for an outdoor adventure diploma.
He now has a full-time job at McDonald’s in Eastern Avenue and is a firm fixture in the Impeys’ extended family which includes two grown-up sons, two other cared-for children, Barney the dog and Skye the budgie.
Being gloomy is not part of Ben’s make-up – far from it.
“Being in foster care has allowed me to grow into the person I am today. What you get out of life depends on what you put in, and I’m a firm believer that if you want something, you have to earn it,” he said.
“I’ve tried to handle every situation as it comes. I’ve never felt the need to kick off.
“The Impeys are brilliant people. What has always stuck with me is Steve saying that if you want something, you have to work for it. Life doesn’t land on a plate.”
His advice to any child coming into care is plain: “Always have an open mind and try to be flexible.
“It’s a natural reaction to think things are going to be bad. You wonder whether your carers will like you, and whether you’ll like them. But everyone I’ve met along the way has been there to support me.
“I’ll stay in touch with Wendy and Steve for the rest of my life. I can never forget them. It’s a relationship for life.”
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