A SINGLE dad who has helped changed the lives of dozens of teenagers says he wants to explode the myths about fostering.

Nick Wrench, from Braintree, has looked after more than 30 children and young adults after becoming a foster parent 16 years ago.

The 58-year-old single parent admits he might not be the stereotypical foster dad, but still finds it incredibly rewarding.

“It’s such a positive thing to be working with these teenagers," he said.

"They have often had many chances taken away from them already and experienced much disappointment.

"They often crave some stability and routine.

"I love showing them that there is a better way and instilling some self-worth in them, so they can have a happier life.”

Nick is now urging other potential foster carers to consider opening their homes to older children, and wants to bust some of the myths about who can foster.

He said: “As a single parent with foster children aged 14, 17 and 19, and a biological son aged 16, I appreciate that I’m not what most people would consider as a typical foster carer.

"Yes, it can be incredibly busy at times doing it alone, but it’s also extremely rewarding and gives me a sense of purpose.

"It just shows that those from all walks of life can do it successfully.”

Imogen Halley and her sister went to live with Nick three years ago.

The current health crisis has been tough for Imogen as she cannot see her boyfriend and could not celebrate her birthday with friends, although she continues to do her university course online, studying mental health nursing.

She described Nick as "the nicest person you could ever meet".

“Nick is just so down to earth, kind and calm to absolutely everyone," she said.

"I turned 19 recently and the message on his card read ‘You’re just like a daughter to me and I’m lucky to have met you’.

"You have no idea how much that simple sentence meant to me.”

Up to 500 children are expected to go into care in Essex this year.

Last year more than half were over the age of ten.

Social services are urging more foster carers to help change their lives, on a full or part-time basis for either short or long-term placements.

The county council says they can be single, married, from a same-sex family or retired, and will get high-quality training.

Children and families services boss Louise McKinlay said: “A high proportion of the children who come into foster care are over the age of ten, so we desperately need carers like Nick to help with that age group.

"While the world outside might have ground to a standstill because of coronavirus, life goes on for children and parents in crisis.”

Nick uses his own experiences running a business as an electrical contractor to help shape the support he offers the teenagers he cares for.

He said: “I think it’s important to show our teenagers the many different avenues one can take in life

"I have friends who didn’t do so well academically but now have their own successful businesses. It just shows our young people that they may not be flying high in school but there is always something they can do to the best of their abilities.”

His career inspired Imogen to go to university, get a job and learn to drive.

She added: “I’ve noticed a lot of stigma around foster children that they’re naughty and hard work, but hopefully my situation shows this isn’t always true.

"Nick instilled a sense of work ethic in me and gave me plenty of opportunities to get on in life, which I’m very grateful for. I credit this for where I am now.

"I would say to other foster children that they shouldn’t blame their circumstances for not achieving.

“It also just goes to show that all types of people can be successful foster carers. Nick holds down a busy job whilst looking after a household full of children and young adults.

"If you are thinking about applying to be a foster parent, but are concerned you won’t have the time, then please reconsider.

"There are lots of different options open to you and plenty of support on offer.”

Foster Care Fortnight ends this week.

For more information visit essexadoptionandfostering.co.uk or call 0800 801530.