A FOSTER family is urging other parents to follow their lead and make a difference to a child’s life.

Maria Ledgerton, 46, and husband Phil, 55, have been looking after foster children for seven years.

Maria, who had already adopted her now 25-year-old niece, had her interest in adoption sparked after hearing a radio interview.

She already had a positive relationship with social services and knew fostering could be the job for her.

Maria and Phil were soon caring for their first foster child - an eight-year-old girl who is now excelling at school thanks to their support.

“She is an A-star student, always above average in everything she does,” said Maria.

“I’m so proud of her. We’re lucky to have her. She’s brilliant.

“Foster children can make you feel so proud when they do well.

“If I can make a difference to one child, then I feel I have done a good job.”

The Clacton couple’s success in helping their foster children resulted in them winning an award from Essex County Council earlier in the year for helping a child to meet their full potential.

Maria said: “I like teenagers. They go through a difficult stage in life and I can relate well to them. It is lovely to be able to help them.

“It’s important to get on their level to understand them and sympathise with them.”

She admits her home is currently “overrun” with three girls, all aged 14 and fostered.

Maria added: “You have to be open minded and not have too high expectations sometimes, but if you want to make a difference do it.

“I have made great friends with other foster carers who really support you.”

It is expected that up to 500 children will come into care in Essex this year.

Essex County Council said it needs new foster carers to help change these children’s lives.

Foster carers can be single, married, be part of a same-sex couple or retired and the county council has an active network of support groups.

It also provides opportunities to meet and learn from other foster carers.

Fostering events are also being being staged in Colchester on February 1 and Dovercourt on February 15.

To find out more call 0800 801 530 or go to Essexadoptionandfostering.co.uk/fostering/events.