A charity is calling for more military families to consider fostering.
The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT) aims to help provide homes for children and young people.
Fostering is something RAF Mechanic, Corporal Alex Chapman, has been doing since he was 23-years-old.
He and his wife Emma have looked after five children so far, and they believe the military provides a great environment for a child to grow up in.
Cpl Chapman has recently returned from a four-month tour in the Falklands and has been spending time with his three birth children, and two foster children.
After both parents grew up around fostering, the couple started the fostering process when they were aged 22 and 21-years-old - 21 being the minimum age a person can legally apply to become a foster carer.
Cpl Chapman's parents fostered around 200 children, and Emma herself came through the fostering system.
"I’ve always known foster care - my mum was a foster carer as well, and she still is, so I’ve known it since I was five," he says.
"My wife Emma was a foster child as well; she was fostered to another carer since she was 10 until she met me.
"We’ve seen children come and go - back to family, to adoption. It’s really nice seeing the whole process, seeing them get a better chance in life.
"We had the two boys since my wife was pregnant with my eldest child, so they’ve seen our three birth children come into the family themselves.
“They love being part of that - they’re just part of the family.
"We’ve got five children, that’s what we always say. They’re with us long term, so they’ll be staying with us until they leave as adults."
Cpl Chapman is based at MoD Stafford and is often away from home due to work commitments.
However, he says that there are lots of ways to cope with being away from the family and that the military itself has been an invaluable support on their fostering journey:
"It is hard being away from the children.
"You try and keep in contact as much as you can, but it’s a bit harder in the Falklands because of the communication side of things, but there are plenty of facilities you can use.
"My wife sends loads of letters and pictures from the kids, so it’s nice receiving them, and I send letters back.
"There’s plenty of support from the military as well as from the fostering side.
"We’ve got support networks through the military, through organisations that offer social workers and other advice."
"Emma acknowledges that there are challenges when it comes to raising foster children in a military family, but she says that there are also advantages- foster children are used to being moved around, and so are comfortable within the military environment:
"It’s hard with them constantly asking 'where’s daddy?', and the foster children asking 'where’s Alex, when’s he coming home?'"
"But they do video calls, and we do special boxes for them with writing and pictures and we send them out, we make a big thing about it and they love it.
"The military holds a lot of family days, and they do a lot with getting the kids involved - they also offer you support for when your partners are abroad.
"The foster children are used to families coming and going, so with foster children, they fit in really easily, they don’t feel like the new kid."
It is unclear exactly how many military families foster, but Andy Elvin from TACT, says there is a great need for more carers to come forward:
"I think people rule themselves out because they think their lives aren't stable enough - they might be posted somewhere else, and that needn't be a problem because children can sometimes move with you, particularly settled children.
"Often in military families, one person is settled in one place for quite a period of time, and so that's perfect for fostering."
For now, Alex is making the most of his time with his family and hopes their success with their foster children encourages other military families to take it up.
For more information on fostering, and to hear other stories like Emma and Alex’s, visit https://www.tactcare.org.uk.