Foster care transforms lives - not just for the children in care but for foster carers and their families.

Kate and Mike Hall, who live on a farm just outside Piddletrenthide, have been fostering children for more than nine years and Kate said it changed their lives.

"Of course it does," she said. "It's an intrusion on your life in truth but I've learnt so much about myself. It really does help you expand yourself as well as change the life of a young person."

Fostering was something the couple always wanted to do and Kate said it's the little things that make fostering so rewarding.

"Sometimes it can be the first time you have a conversation and they make eye contact or the first time they manage to sit down and have dinner with us or go to school and actually stay at school. It's seeing the small steps, seeing them test you out and begin to take a few risks - it's those things that make a difference."

Over the years they have offered different kinds of fostering places to teenagers - from respite stays to long term placements - and Kate said she's lost count of how many youngsters have come to stay.

"We're still in touch with some of the young people who have moved on from us and it's nice when they call up for a chat - you feel like you've had a positive impact when they still want contact and to ask for advice."

Kate said it is not always smooth sailing, and the emotional side of fostering can be difficult. 

"When they leave you for whatever reason you don't always know where they've gone. You build up a relationship with them so you want to know they are doing well and not knowing can be hard.

"Some have had awful experiences, whether that's abuse or neglect and they don't trust adults. It can be a very slow process. The first year is often them just settling in and testing you to see whether you are going to leave them."

Last year, Kate and Mike took on a new challenge when they offered a permanent foster place to an eight-year-old girl.

"It went against everything we had said we'd do but we just thought, all this girl wants is to have a home. She will be with us now all the way through and if she's still in education until she's 25."

Kate said adding an eight-year-old to their family completely changed their lives.

"She comes to family gatherings and on holiday with us, our life is completely different. We are here, there and everywhere but you know what - it's great. She is part of our family. Whatever we do we do it together."

"We wanted to create a sense of normality and consistency for her. Being in care isn't normal. She has the opportunity to find out who she is, what she can do and that stability. All children want to know is that they have somewhere safe to go and someone who cares about them."

Kate added with full-time care she felt she had more impact to effect change.

"I see myself as having an advocacy role. You are the voice for this child. Yes they have their own voice but it's a tiny voice and it's my role to see that voice projected as loud as possible and as far as possible," she said.

According to The Fostering Network, 540 new foster families need to be found in the South West to ensure the needs of all children who need fostering can be met.

The charity said unless more families come forward in 2018 some children will find themselves living far from their family, school and friends, will be split up from brothers and sisters and risk being placed with a family that cannot meet their specific needs.

Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Fostering Network said: "Foster carers do something amazing on behalf of our society, opening their hearts and homes to fostered children, often offering them their first experience of a stable, secure and caring home.

"Looking after fostered children, many of whom who have experienced trauma, abuse or neglect, can be challenging. But it is that challenge, along with the reward of seeing these children and young people flourish, that many foster carers say makes them proud to foster."

Dorset County Council (DCC) is campaigning for two weeks for Foster Care Fortnight, which runs until May 27 so if you are interested in fostering, now is the time to find out more.

Fostering engagement officer, Jo Thomson, who is a foster carer herself, said the team will be out and about at a series of drop-in sessions and events across the county in a bid to encourage more people to consider taking in a child.

"It's challenging of course but you get massive amounts of support and training. You have a role to play. When you take on a child and six months later you see them go on to bigger and better things - whether that's to a new family or back to their family - it's so rewarding."

Jo added her own experiences as a foster carer had become an important part of her role.

"I'm not just a person telling someone they should foster, I can talk about my own experience and the knowledge I have which is pretty valuable.

"It's a lovely thing to do as a family. It's been a massively positive experience for my own daughter. For her to take on the role of a big sister and that responsibility - she's picked up so many different skills and it's something she'll be able to put on CVs in the future."

DCC welcomes foster carers from all walks of life, whether single or married, and regardless of cultural background or sexual orientation.

"Whether you've been thinking about fostering for a while or never considered it before, I'd urge people to just make an enquiry. Now's a great time to come and find out more," Jo said.

Cllr Steve Butler, DCC cabinet member for Safeguarding, said: “We desperately need people in Dorset to look after children of all ages and abilities. Fostering could provide these vulnerable children with safe and caring homes, either for a short period or through to adulthood.

“Our drop-in sessions and events are the ideal opportunity for people to find out more in an informal way without any commitment.”

To find out more about fostering in Dorset and the council's planned open days, visit