Mandy Worsley, Founder of Chetham Farm Retreat
Specialising in offering short breaks for adoptive and foster families
People always ask married couples: “When are you going to start a family?” It’s expected, but I found it too stressful, private and personal to talk about. Things weren’t happening naturally, so our parents helped us to pay for IVF.
After six cycles, we decided we couldn’t carry on for emotional, health and financial reasons. The most important thing was to become parents, so in June 2004, we made enquiries to our local authority about adoption. Exactly a year to the day, our nine-and-a-half-month-old son James came home and made me a mum!
We wanted more children, so we adopted an 11-month-old baby girl in November 2007. We quickly settled into normal family life – acquiring a farm in 2011 so the children could grow up with nature.
Part of our vision was to open an on-site retreat for adoptive or foster families to enjoy a short break, so in 2016, I took redundancy. It was a massively scary step after working as a children’s nurse for over 26 years, but I had faith we could make it work.
We sold our cottage and lived on site at the farm in a caravan for the next two years – watching our Scandinavian cedar lodge take shape. It’s been a journey of ups and downs since we moved in. To generate a sustainable income stream, we’ve diversified – renting out space to local holistic practitioners – but my passion has always been to get the retreat off the ground.
I’ve broadened my skill-set – retraining in a play-based therapy called ‘Relax Kids’, as well as hands-on story massage. This year, we’re finally welcoming our first adoptive family and their four children on a government-funded retreat.
We’ve always kept in touch with James’ foster mum. He was her 94th baby and she’s inspired us to foster two babies over the past two years ourselves. People say: “How do you not get attached?” Well, of course I do! My role is to love them as a mother would but be able to support them back to their birth or adoptive family.
Our plan is to continue to foster – all whilst helping families like ours to form bonds of attachment at our unique retreat.