Hammersmith & FulhamNews

How fostering has meant the world to incredible Earl’s Court mum

By Adrian Zorzut, Local Democracy Reporter

Sharon Telfer isn’t your regular mum. This gregarious west Londoner has fostered 14 children and, if given the chance, she said she would do it all over again.

Sharon, 56, lives in a busy three-bedroom flat in Earl’s Court with a 15-year-old foster child, three pet dogs (two Jack Russells and a German Shepherd cross Malamute and Husky), a pack of sugar gliders and a Bearded Dragon.

When she’s not doting over her aged Jack Russell Milo, who is completely blind but loves to wander around the flat, or teaching her sugar gliders tricks or is busy on work calls, she’s thinking about her own two adult daughters, her grandchildren and the incredible array of foster children she has cared for since 2006.

“The ups are forever,” Sharon explains, saying she got into fostering around the time a bout of depression left her wanting to help others.

She said: “I saw how people were treated when they were ill and that’s when I realised I wanted to help people who weren’t supported; to advocate for them. In a way [depression] kind of helped me to understand and help others.”

Advocating Sharon did. Over her 18 years as a foster parent, she has cared for teenagers from all sorts of backgrounds, challenged social workers, provided shelter to toddlers and become a mother figure to all of them, all the while raising her own family and keeping up work.

“I will advocate for a child regardless of your job title,” she reminds me.


Sharon came to fostering after a foster parent friend suggested she sign up. This friend noticed how Sharon’s place had become a ‘safe haven’ for her kids’ friends whenever they got into trouble with their parents. She was told fostering would be similar.

In 2006, Sharon attended her first meeting with recruiters and immediately felt a pull. She said: “I heard the recruiters talk and I thought, this is what I want to do. Kids and animals are my passion.” Just over six months later, Sharon had her first placement: a teenage girl.

To describe Sharon as nervous at the time was an understatement, she said, adding: “When I found out she was coming, I panicked. I called my friend, who is a foster carer, and asked her what I should do. She told me to take her shopping, so we could get to know each other, to show her how things are done but also give her a chance to ask questions.”

From there, their relationship blossomed and the pair are still in touch today. In fact, Sharon is still in contact with many of her former foster children.

Sharon Telfer with her current foster child (Picture: Sharon Telfer)

She said: “One of them texted me saying there was a woman on the bus who really got her angry and that instead of responding, she just smiled at her. I taught her whenever someone makes you angry, to smile at them and walk away. She texted me joking that I should be proud of her.”

But it’s not all been rainbows and butterflies. Sharon, who is a support officer for Kensington and Chelsea council’s social services,  said. “It’s so important to have a support network. You can get to a point with difficult placements where you don’t know what to do and easily let your mental health slip.

“Having someone to talk to about what is happening and expressing yourself is very important. Talk to professionals but also outside of the fostering network. I have my girls and my friends.”

Sharon’s network includes her next door neighbour, who teaches the kids to cook while she is at work, and her daughters, who she said aren’t afraid to get involved.

She recounted how her current placement texted her daughters after Sharon refused to let her leave the house because of the way she was dressed.

Sharon said: “I said, no way you’re wearing that. I can see everything. So she went back into her room and texted my daughters, who told her that mum was ‘having one’. Then they texted me saying I was being old and to let her dress how she wanted. So we hopped on a family chat and did a video call.

“I asked her to get dressed in what she wanted so I could show the girls. When she came out, she turned her head so her hair twirled and the girls immediately shouted: ‘You are not going out in that!’ I always say that I’m not a foster carer, I’m a foster family”.


“No two children are the same,” Sharon said, adding: “Don’t come into fostering thinking it’s all fairytales. You need to come with a blank slate. Every child is different. You can’t think any one child is the same. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you do that.”

Sharon has had her spare bedroom trashed, been shouted at and sworn at, spent countless hours worrying after one placement tried to run away, had toddlers screaming in her ears and experienced a belligerent seven-year-old who refused to sleep. But through it all, Sharon said she kept her cool and engaged the kids through speaking.

She said: “Talking to them and finding out what the issue is is important. Talking is very important. Don’t think that Child A is the same as Child B.”

For Sharon, it’s the bonds she forms with her placements, who are mostly girls, that keeps the warm 56-year-old in the trade. She has been invited to birthdays, births, receives sweet messages, photo albums and is called mum. She has previously said the fulfilment she gets in helping shape a child’s future is “unparalleled”.

Of the teen that tried to run away, she said: “In a [later] meeting she told me she didn’t want to run away from here. She said she had never had a mum like me and didn’t want to break that.”

Sharon does have some basic ground rules, however. No phones or internet devices after 8pm and placements have to be at least 13-year-old so they can get themselves to and from school while Sharon works. And there are two non-negotiable rules she tells every placement that walks through her door: be honest and always be happy.

When asked if she could be a foster parent all over again, she replied: “Without a doubt. Without a shadow of a doubt”.

According to The Fostering Network, there were more than 57,000 children living with foster families on March 31, 2022 in England. For links to fostering within Kensington and Chelsea & west London, visit: https://www.fosteringsharedservices.org.uk/information-events

Pictured top: Sharon Telfer with her Jack Russell Mia in the kitchen (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon)

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