Meet Pete Hillman, who spent more than 20 years as facilities manager at an insurance broker. Pete now fosters full-time alongside his role as a Church of England parish priest. Pete fosters with his wife, Jen, who works full-time as a nurse in occupational health.
The couple have been fostering with us since 2014 and in their seven years as foster carers, Pete and Jen have provided a home for nine children and young people, with three of those still living with the couple today. Their foster family includes 22-year-old Michael*, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, who is now a self-employed floor fitter and teenagers Jack* and Kieran*, who are both at college.
Pete and Jen also have two children of their own, who are both married and live independently with their respective partners.
“I found that I was spending increased amounts of time volunteering to help youngsters and I was enjoying it immensely, so decided it was really time to commit to it and leave my nine to five behind to take up a role as youth worker. Fostering was always something we had also spoken about and wanted to pursue, but while our sons were living at home we felt it wasn’t quite the right time because of a lack of space.”
Shortly after leaving behind his long-term career, Pete became ordained as a priest and served his curacy – the training phase for the newly ordained – where he was able to continue running the youth centre and skatepark he’d helped to found. It was at this time during the summer of 2014 that the couple finally decided to apply to foster, with Pete’s career change, and their eldest son moving out for university, everything had aligned to ensure they could offer a home to vulnerable youngsters.
“I feel very strongly that the work we do to support children and young people aligns with the rest of our life in terms of who we want to be as people. Leading a church alongside being a foster carer doesn’t feel like a separate bit of my life, they are two integral elements to our roles in helping people. Our values are to share our family life and share our family home with those who are in need and fostering has been a hugely fulfilling part of that.”
“There’s no greater feeling than knowing what is technically your job means you’re helping people at their most vulnerable find safety, security and a place to grow into the people that they have the potential to become. Both my ‘jobs’ as a foster carer and a priest make me feel so privileged that I can do as much as I can for others. I like to call myself a professional parent, because we love and care so much for those boys living with us while at the same time recognising the need for professional self-discipline and practice.”
“We sit down for dinner together every single evening and discuss our days, what’s going on in the world and all sorts. We also have movie nights watching a film together over a pizza and we do other things as a family including outings and family holidays.
“Everyone gets on extremely well, and the younger boys look up to Michael*, they’re quite in awe of him. We’re proud to see Michael* as a fantastic role model for them both as they are aware of how much he had to overcome in his journey to the UK and the strength of character he has shown to become the man he is.
“The boys who live with us now, as well as some who have moved onto the next stage of their lives, are now an integral part of our family. They are treated as such by both our extended family and friends who are also part of our fostering journey. It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child, and our extended family and support network of friends form that village for these youngsters.”
*Please note, names have been changed to protect the identity of the child in care.