The ability to listen and not judge is vital if you want to become a foster carer, says Vicki Hall, chair of Wiltshire Fostering Association.

Mrs Halls, from Southwick, has been fostering for 20 years after her and her husband Graham responded to a profile of a child in need of fostering in the Wiltshire Times.

Since then she has looked after more than 400 children – some for as little as one night, to others spanning over 11 years.

She said: “What all foster carers are trying to do is support young people while they are not able to live at home.

“Often we are working on getting people back home, which is brilliant when it happens.

“We also work with young people to prepare them for independent living and support them through school, college and apprenticeships, to fulfil their potential.

“Teenagers regularly get bad press but you don’t hear about them doing wonderful things. I was not a perfect teenager myself. When you have stories of your own, you can identify and relate to them (young people).

“You absolutely need to be able to listen and not judge. Having a sense of humour is vital.

“You have to tailor your approach to each person.

“There are so many myths about fostering, but you don’t have to be married or own your own home to become a foster carer.

“Nationally, we are short of 8,000 carers. In Wiltshire, we are short of carers that can take large sibling groups. No local authority wants siblings to be separated.

“You have so much to gain and nothing to lose in checking out fostering. For me, it is a privilege to look after young people.”

For more information, email or call Wiltshire Fostering Association on 08001696321.