MARTIN Williams, from Addiscombe, started fostering with his partner Stephen in 2002, and has since taken care of four children who were put in Croydon's care system.
The 57-year-old explained: "We were thinking about it for quite a while as we had a spare room in the house and we wanted to do something different with our lives. At the time we both still worked, though I am now a full-time foster carer.
"It gave us a completely different focus on our lives."
Martin has taken on children for the long-term, having them live with him and taking care of them until the age of 18, when they must leave the care system.
He said: "I absolutely enjoy it, it's addictive in a way. It is up to the fostered child if they stay in contact, but we still have a great relationship with all our foster children.
"The first one we ever had came to us when he was 13, now he's much older but we see each other every week.
"You do obviously get emotionally attached to the children, they become a part of your family. It is emotional having to say goodbye, but like I said, we do keep in touch."
Martin has taken care of children from the age of 13, and kept on one child past the age of 18, as he had learning difficulties.
"Fostering teenagers obviously has its challenges," said Martin. "They are more established in their habits, they are more aware of what is going on, but I think we have been really fortunate. We have got on with all of them.
"It's just about offering stability and just being there for them when they need someone.
"They become a part of your family, that's the nice thing about it. And of course they grow attached to you too.
"We are preparing them for when they have to leave the care system and go out there on their own.
"You get to help a child maximise their potential and it's brilliant."
Martin told the Advertiser he would like to encourage others thinking about fostering to take the leap.
He said: "You have to think carefully about what you can offer a young person, can you offer them your time?
"It's a rewarding thing, to help a young person grow and prepare them to go out into the world and hopefully one day back to their own family.
"Being a foster carer is an emotional rollercoaster, it is satisfying, it's enjoyable, and it's worthwhile. And most of all it is great fun.
"And I'll keep doing it, we have some more years left in us yet."
CROYDON'S Foster Care Fortnight began last week, with a series of events planned to educate people on what foster caring is all about. There are currently more than 700 children in care Croydon, with only 220 foster carers and 13 short-break carers. Last year the council increased the allowances it pays to carers. to help with recruitment. Most placements tend to be long-term, but some can just be for a few days or months. Foster carers are especially needed for children and young people aged between 10 and 18. These young people could have difficulties in their relationships, struggle with their education and may not even be in school. They may be experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties which will present a challenge to anyone offering to care for them. Giving a young person stability could make a huge difference to them. There is also a need for more foster carers who can accommodate up to three siblings, as it is always preferred to keep the children together. in a family. Foster carers in Croydon are given ongoing help and advice including a mentoring scheme, and there is a 24-hour support service from qualified social workers. People who are interested in fostering should visit www.croydon.gov.uk/fostering or call 0800 389 0129.