A new support network for foster carers has launched in Andover.

Hampshire County Council have unveiled Hampshire Hive during foster care fortnight, a network that aims to create an "extended family" for households that foster young people.

It is designed to increase support among carers and young people, providing "advice, guidance, practical and emotional support".

In Andover, it is being led by Estelle, a foster carer who looks after two brothers hoping to be professional footballers.

She and her husband Emilio have ferried him to and from London for training three times a week, and to matches across the country.

Estelle said: “Our very first arrival was a 12-year-old lad who had been hard to place in a foster home – not for any reason other than his phenomenal talent for football.

"He was signed with a top club’s academy and we ferried him to London and back for training three times in the week, and at weekends to matches as far away as Norwich or Swansea.

"This was a massive ask for us as foster carers, but we were new and keen and desperately wanted to give this lad the chance he deserved.

“Five years on, we’ve lived his football dream with him, shared the tears and disappointments but also the highs, watching him play for England Under-16s, and he has grown into a fine young person who we are so very proud of.

"He’s currently an apprentice with a major south coast club and well on the way to a professional career, but still loves to come back home to us at weekends.

"None of this would have been possible without the amazing support we’ve had from Children’s Services at Hampshire County Council.

"It has been a privilege to share his journey with him and, although I have worn out a couple of cars in the process, at least I now understand the offside rule.

“These days we are doing it all again with his little brother, who is just nine years old – but already signed with another top club!”

Meanwhile, Amber James, head of Hampshire’s fostering service, said: “In Hampshire, we have an ambitious vision for children, and our looked-after children are at the centre of this. We have listened to what our foster families tell us they need, and by launching this new network, we want to provide a ‘support bubble’ around children and young people in care.

"Hampshire Hives will support children and young people to have the security of staying in one placement and not needing to move to another while they are in our care. It will also enhance the overall wellbeing and satisfaction of our foster carers.

“We have recruited support workers from our own pool of experienced foster carers to lead Hampshire Hives across the county, and the service is headed by a dedicated and experienced senior member of staff.

"In addition to offering support, the Hampshire Hive network will have a social aspect, with children and carers making friends with other fostering families.

“Anyone who would like to find out more about fostering a Hampshire child should get in touch with us. If you have space in your heart and in your home for a child in need, we will train and support you all the way.”

If you are interested in finding out more about fostering, visit hants.gov.uk/fostering.