So keen was Debra Kirkbride to take up fostering that she moved house to get extra space.

Debra, 49, had been interested in fostering babies since speaking to a foster carer who visited her parents’ baby shop.

She said: “It’s something I wanted to do for a long time. It took me a long time to get my husband persuaded because he thought I’d get too attached to the children.”

Eventually Debra and 54-year-old John, who works at Sellafield, made enquiries with Cumbria County Council and they were approved about five years ago.

Initially Debra was still working three days a week and, as parents to two grown-up daughters, they did some respite care to make sure they adapted okay to having youngsters in the house again before she took the step of leaving her job to be a full-time carer.

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That step was taken about three years ago and since then the couple have cared for three babies, two arriving straight after birth and one at six months old.

Getting attached to them is not only inevitable but necessary, Debra explained. She said: “It’s important for the little ones to learn how to form an attachment so that when they go back to birth parents or move on to adopters they can form an attachment with their primary carer. You can’t not fall in love with them.”

Saying goodbye when the children move on, Debra said, is heartbreaking, but it is also rewarding to know the difference she has made to their lives.

She said: “I like to think we have given the children a good start when they have been here and prepared them as best we can with babies for moving. You focus on the good times and the difference you’ve made to the children.

“Fostering babies can be very challenging and time-consuming as they need 24-hour care, and as a baby carer there’s no break for a few hours while the child goes to school.

“Some babies are withdrawing from drug or alcohol abuse, others have suffered different types of abuse or neglect.

“They all need love, time and patience.

“It is so rewarding as we can get to see their first smile, hear their first giggle and watch them crawl or walk for the first time.

“Fostering is by far the most fulfilling and rewarding job I’ve ever done.

“We have great support from our fostering social workers. There is lots of training you can choose to do and monthly support groups to attend where other foster carers quickly become friends and offer support and advice to each other.”

For Debra, fostering babies is a long-term plan and an important role. She said: “You’re there to look after these children the best you can to give them a good start and prepare them for wherever the next part of their life is going to take them.

“We are privileged to be able to look after these amazing children.”

To find out more about fostering with Cumbria County Council visit