WHEN Josh Thompson was taken into care as a young child, he had holes in his shoes and could fit all of his possessions into a black bin bag.

Now 24, he is the area manager of a chain of restaurants and oversees more than 230 employees.

His life was steered from turbulence to stability after he found refuge with his long-term foster family in 2007.

Josh’s background is exhausting and harrowing, but to him it was just normal life.

“When someone that age goes through something traumatic and life-changing, you distinctively remember things,” he said.

“My birth parents separated when I was just born. Both of my parents were alcoholics, my mum had bi-polar disorder and that combination meant she spent majority of my childhood in hospital.

“I was exposed to, and saw, a lot of things a child shouldn’t.

“They were regularly violent with each other, though never with us.

“I think up until about the age of eight social services had been involved, they never want to take a child away - it is actually the last thing they want to do.

“It is a last resort, but my mum’s mental health was too severe and my dad was drinking too much.”

Josh’s birth parents died young.

He entered foster care with his brother, who was a couple of years his senior.

He also has four half-brothers, one of whom since died of alcohol poisoning, while another was murdered.

Until his teenage years, Josh, experienced brief stays with “between six or seven” foster carers.

He said: “The first night in care was awful, I had no parents and I didn’t have any money.

“I had holes in my shoes, had my possessions in a black bag.

“I would turn up on a stranger’s doorstep.

“The council make sure it is safe, but as a child you don’t know that and it is so unnerving."

Enter Iain and Karen Cameron, both former soldiers, from Colchester, who as a couple have nurtured at least 12 foster children, raising their own two children at the same time.

Joining their family at the age of 13, Josh was their first foster child.

Iain, 45, who served with the Military Police, was on a tour of duty in Baghdad when Karen rang to tell him Josh had arrived.

“Fostering had been in our heads since the early days, both of us came from different backgrounds, one very loving and the other wasn’t,” said Iain.

“So we knew between us what good we could do.

“We knew what kind of home environment we could provide.”

Since then, Iain and Karen, who now works as a teaching assistant, have provided Josh with the most valuable resource they can offer - their time.

Iain explains: “Gradually, you become more and more comfortable in each other’s presence.

“Sure, you might panic a bit, or think ‘what if I do it wrong’, but imagine for one second how that young person is feeling.

“When they arrive they are in a stranger’s house, they don’t even know where their bedroom is. You have to realise there is no child in care because everything is going right, they are in the system because everything has gone wrong.

“Before they go out into the big bad world at 18 years old, we are there to prepare them for what they are going to face.”

On what Josh, who now lives in Basildon, has achieved he adds: “I expect no less from him.

“Young people who have had a bad start can’t use that as an excuse, they have to move beyond that, and it’s about how we help them do this.

“I am so, so impressed with him.

“Their victories are your victories, you just pick them up, brush them down and give them the chance to choose their own destiny.”

It is currently Foster Care Fortnight, with Essex County Council appealing for people to help transform a child’s life.

For more, visit essexadoptionandfostering.co.uk/fostering.