Amanda Stevens, 50, and husband Colin, 58, had considered fostering for about a decade before deciding to go ahead soon after the birth of their third child.
Amanda recalled: “Before we had our three boys, we were talking about what we might do if we couldn’t have our own children and I said I’d love to foster or adopt and Colin said it was something he’d like to do as well.
“When we first made enquiries about it, it wasn’t quite right for us but that was in 1996.
“Then after our third child was born, we looked at it again because we knew we’d only have three birth children and it all went from there.
“We made the decision to go through the process quite slowly, and we were approved in December 2006 and then we had our first placement in April 2007.”
Since then the family, who live in the Basildon area, have given a loving home to more than 50 children, ranging from emergency placements to one child who has now been with them for eight and a half years.
“That’s one of the things I really like,” said Amanda.
“Fostering is so flexible and we’ve been able to adapt what we do to the different stages of our lives.
“We’ve had one child that just stayed overnight and another that’s been with us for eight years now. We’ve had babies, older children, siblings, provided respite care; everything.
“You never quite know exactly what’s going to happen and who’s going to walk through the door, which is exciting.
“Then once they are with you, you just get so much out of seeing the little changes in the children. People always say ‘what you do is amazing’ but all the children need is routine, love, attention and just to know that they are being cared for.
“You see such big changes so quickly just through normal parenting.”
The couple’s three sons, now 21, 17 and 14, have also played an important role in their fostering experience.
Amanda said: “Our three children have grown up with fostering.
“Yes they have probably missed out on some time with me when I’ve had meetings and things, but on the flip side they are very compassionate, have developed some very important life skills and have probably been inspired to be foster carers themselves in the future.
“We really do foster as a family and it is very important that they enjoy it because they are welcoming other children into their home.”
She added: “You’re very much part of a much wider team as well. People listen to your point of view, there is excellent support available from the council and from other foster carers, and the training is very good.
“It took us a long time in the end to start fostering, but since then we haven’t looked back once and we’ve had the most amazing memories over the last ten years.
“I love a busy house and the thought of not having lots of children running about here fills me with dread.
“The other thing that I really like about fostering is the people you meet. It’s a really funny way of life because unlike other jobs where people often come from similar backgrounds. Foster carers come from such a range of backgrounds and experiences, but all have that common thread of wanting to make children’s lives better.
“I’ve met some very interesting people and made some great friends.”