Former The Only Way is Essex star Debbie Bright, who appeared on screen with her eldest daughter Lydia Bright, has opened up about her fostering journey that spanned over 30 years.
While speaking on Kate Ferdinand’s podcast Blended, Debbie talks about how she and her husband Dave have fostered over 200 children over the span of 30 years.
Debbie said she ‘fell into fostering’ when she was in a restaurant 30 years ago and saw a mum struggling with crying and screaming children at a table next to her and offered to help mind the children.
After chatting for a while, Debbie discovered the woman was fostering the children and decided to give her number to the lady to pass on to social services so she could do the same thing.
Bright says she could ‘never forget’ her first ever foster child as she was an Italian newborn and Debbie is half-Italian, so it was a perfect fit.
The former reality television star fostered her for a year but has no idea where she is now because it was discouraged to keep in contact with foster children back then and after the baby’s aunt got full custody of her, Debbie never heard from her again.
The 61-year-old revealed she does keep in contact with most of her foster children now as the fostering system allows foster parents and children to stay in touch.
Debbie spoke more about the ups and downs of being a foster carer. “I do beat myself up a bit Kate, I don’t want people thinking fostering is all rose tinted glasses ‘cause it really isn’t”.
She continued, “Like all families there’s ups and downs, like all families there’s trauma, like all families there’s arguments”.
While Debbie said she wouldn’t change anything about her life of fostering, she did say that there were issues sometimes between her biological children and foster children. “Most of the time there’s my four and then I foster between two or three children, you know, that’s a lot of kids to have in the house and there would be fights”.
“I don't know whether I actually damaged my children in one way".
"I think there was a lot of positives”. For example, Bright said, “I think that they learned the devastation drugs causes because most of the children that come into care is drug and alcohol related”.
When opening up more about her fear of damaging her biological children, Debbie said, “There's loads of things I can tell you is positive for them to come out of fostering, but the one thing that I really struggle with is attachments, and I think have I actually damaged them in any way because they loved somebody so much and they were taken away”.
Debbie revealed that she would never forget when her daughter Lydia was a teenager she said, “For every 100 negative things I can tell you about fostering, there's a million pure positive ones to replace it”.
The most rewarding thing about fostering is “watching the child grow, grow into an independent, lovely little person”, Debbie found.
“It’s overflowing the amount of things that are rewarding”.
Debbie went into fostering knowing she wanted to help children in crisis rather than adopting them and agreed with Kate when she said “It’s no different to being a biological parent and watching your child grow".