MK Council is one of a number of local authorities in the UK suffering from a shortage of foster carers. Celebrate:MK went to meet Jenny and Tony Plummer, who have helped to transform Milton Keynes teenager Ray Hyde into an Army success story. We hope their tale will inspire others to choose a career in foster caring to help change lives.
Local teenager Ray Hyde knows his life could have turned out very differently if he hadn’t been placed in respite foster care with Jenny and Tony Plummer two years ago.
The 18-year-old former White Spire School pupil has been in a variety of care placements since he was five and admits he was on the road to nowhere as he was too scared to even catch the bus on his own.
But all that changed when he landed at the Newport Pagnell home of health care assistant Jenny and roofer Tony, who welcomed him with open arms and offered him all the love and support he needed to start a career in the Army.
Celebrate:MK went to visit the Plummers and after a quick chat about their passion for fostering, Jenny connected us to Ray via Skype to discuss his radical transformation.
Ray, speaking from his Battalion base in Northern Ireland, said: “Jen has been brilliant. She sat me down and asked me what I wanted to do with my life.
“I had been thinking of joining the Army but she gave me the confidence to go for it. She helped me with all the application forms, going through selection and going to AFC Harrogate, and now I’m a qualified soldier in the rifle regiment.
“I’ve been in care for quite a while but going to Jen’s has changed me for the better.
“I’ve got more discipline and I know that I can make something good of myself now. I want to learn as many trades as I can in the Army so that it opens more doors for me.”
Jenny ended the call by saying ‘I love you’, emphasising that Ray is far more than just a third paid job for the part-time health care assistant and beautician.
She explained: “We’ve got Ray until he’s 21 but we’ve told him this will always be his home, regardless of whether he is under MK care or not.
“He’s a good kid but he needs a base and a family because he still requires a lot of help – he needs me to take care of all his bills!
“Ray initially only came here for a night and is still here two years later, and we’re looking after a 14-year-old boy who came here for a night and is still here eight months later.
“That’s generally the way it happens because there are not enough of us foster carers out there.”
Both Jenny and Tony have two grown up children each – one of whom still lives with them. Jenny ended our meeting by offering some advice to prospective foster carers.
She said: “People should be willing to give kids a chance – especially teenagers – and not be judgemental.
“No-one would take Ray or our 14-year-old because of their past troubles but they are good kids who have just had a rough ride.
“You will be rewarded by knowing that you are giving the kids a chance to live a good life, knowing that someone has got their back.”
For further information visit http://www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/fostering or call Geoff on 01908 258032.