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“Ben’s life has transformed, and so has my son’s”

"Caring is in my blood" - being a Shared Lives Carer helped Caroline, who lives in Reading, to stay at home when her son was born four years ago. Ben came to live with her new family and here they tell us about how Shared Lives has an extraordinary positive impact on them all. 

Being a Shared Lives Carer helped Caroline, who lives in Reading, to stay at home when her son was born four years ago. Ben came to live with her new family and here they tell us about how Shared Lives has an extraordinary positive impact on them all.

Ben starts: “Before I moved in with Caroline my life was fairly miserable. I was in a shared house, but I didn’t get along with the other guys, I didn’t have many friends and didn’t have much to do – so I spent most of my time sleeping.”

“Things are very different for me now. Caroline welcomed me into her family and encouraged me to find things to do. Now I volunteer at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) warehouse three days a week and at my local church on Sundays, and I go to college two days a week for Maths and English.”

I love music

“I also do supported activities and holidays with The Ark Trust and have just been away with them to a music festival. Our group went as volunteers so it was free. I love music and it was very exciting to see live bands. My life is so much better now. I love being part of a family and I love my life.”

Inspired by her family

Caroline’s parents had always fostered, and then they graduated to become Shared Lives carers when their long-term foster kids transitioned to adult services. Caroline says “caring is in my blood.”

“I originally got myself approved as a respite carer so I could give my mum and dad a break, but took on more after my son was born. After one woman had stayed with us for several weeks it occurred to me that we could offer Shared Lives full time – that’s when Ben came into our lives!”

“I let him stick to his own routine for the first few weeks to let him settle in, but then got more proactive. I encouraged him to take more care of himself, join in with family stuff then supported him to get involved in other activities. It took a little time but the change in him now is incredible – he’s way more confident and so full of life. They love him at church and at British Heart Foundation and he really takes advantage of every opportunity. To be quite honest he has a better social life than I do! Of course, we have our moments, but we work through them just like any family and they never last long!”

“I can’t imagine my life without caring!”

Caroline says being a Shared Lives Carer fits nicely around her parenting responsibilities: “It is such good experience for my young son. Having people with all sorts of different abilities in our lives has made him more accepting of others and he is developing into a very well-rounded child. He adores Ben. Being a Shared Lives carer is extremely fulfilling – I can’t imagine my life without caring!”

Ben was introduced to Caroline and her family by Reading Council’s Shared Lives team. Michael, Shared Lives team worker, says: “The difference in Ben since he went to live with Caroline is just amazing. And, with Caroline’s support and encouragement he is continuing to grow and make the most of the many opportunities opening up for him. It’s such a pleasure to see. It’s an excellent example of what Shared Lives is about and why we’re so passionate about making good matches between people who can offer, or need support to live fulfilling lives in our community.”

If you’ve got room in your home and heart – start your journey to becoming a Shared Lives carer today!