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“I had this idea of what family life would be like, and it’s quite different”

Katherine and her son Sebastian live with Adele, 49 and her family in Manchester.

By the time Katherine, 20, moved in with the Jeins, she had lived in 12 foster homes, having been taken into care when she was two. Her late-diagnosed learning difficulties and chaotic upbringing meant she struggled to look after herself. But when Seb was born, mother and son had a strong bond.

Last September, Adele, 49, who grew up in foster care herself, was approached to take Katherine in as part of Shared Lives, which matches adults with individuals or families with a spare room who can provide care (they are paid for the support they provide). The women hit it off over a dinner of chicken and rice.

Adele was apprehensive about the arrangement. She and her husband have four children between them and only 15 year old Sam is left a home full time. “We’ve had our family. We were having a quieter life.” But she decided to try it, hoping to help someone in a very tangible way.

Adele has worked in health and social care for much of her life. “This is for Katherine to learn skills like cooking, cleaning and personal hygiene, to eventually live on her own,” she says. She has helped Katherine come up with charts to remind her what she should do each day. “I’ve got a brain like a gold fish, so the chart tells me to change Seb’s nappy, clean our room, feed him, take him to playgroup and so on,” Katherine says. “I know I need help. I don’t resent it because I know I’m not very good at remembering things.”

It is the first time Katherine has lived with a “real” family. “I had this idea of what family life would be like, and it’s quite different,” she says. Adele says: “She thought everyone always got along. But she sees us have heated discussions.” Sam was initially unsure about the arrangement. “At first it was a bit strange having them in the house; Mum told me not to walk around in my pants and said I had to set an example. But it’s brought us closer as a family.”