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Diane

I am single foster carer and began fostering 10 years ago when I was introduced to it by a friend of mine during a conversation in the playground of the primary school that our girls attended – they were in the same class. She explained how she was training to become a foster carer and she thought I may be good at it and my daughter would love it too.

I had recently split up from my daughter’s father, so it was just my daughter and I at home. Being an only child, she craved the company of other children, which meant my house was always full of children coming for sleepovers and tea when she was younger.

It did make me think and I took the idea home with me and my daughter was immediately on board, to my surprise. We both researched fostering in more detail and discussed the pros and cons and how it would affect our lives. Still enthusiastic, my friend then introduced us to Excel Fostering.

The fostering process lasted about four months, with lots of visits from my social worker and, homework which involved researching different fostering scenarios and opening up about my own family background and childhood experiences. It was a long process which was very tough, but we understood it was essential.

Over the last 10 years, I have had quite a few placements. I think you start off with an idea of the types of placements you would like but this can change with the more experience you gain. I started off just wanting to foster girls on a short-term basis but ended up having a mother and baby placement for nearly 5 years. I have also had respite placements which I love because you are helping other foster carers to have a well-earned break, but you also get to carry on their great work by getting the best out of the child/ children. They also see it as a little holiday for themselves too.

Overall, I have had a combination of short-term, long-term, mother and baby, respite and emergency placements and now I have a 16-year-old teenager who has come to me on the Stepping Down programme, which is where children in residential homes are ready to live with a family. She has been with us for 18 months and it has worked really well.

Fostering has a massive impact on all of your family, both positively and negatively. However, I feel that the positives outweigh the negatives and you get through the difficult periods with these children who all have individual challenges and stories of how they have ended up in care – it’s tough for them too.

As a foster carer, you can only do your best and treat them as individuals, because what works for one child may not work for another. Always accept support and seek advice if needed. Never struggle through on your own. The positives make it all worthwhile and there are plenty of them and making memories for these children is so important. Some of them may not seem to appreciate what you do at the time, but in the future, when they are older and look back, they will do and no matter how long they stay with you, those times will have changed their lives for the better. That’s why I enjoy fostering because I know I am helping to make a difference.

I have and will continue to recommend Excel Fostering as a fostering agency. They get better and better and more professionals are joining the team which means they can offer more support within different areas, for example, my foster daughter now has a support worker, who she has bonded with really well and I knew if there was something bothering her and she felt she couldn’t tell me or her social worker, she would open up to her support worker. I also feel that Excel Fostering have an amazing training programme which covers all aspects of the fostering process and is available all through your fostering career.

Here is to the next 10 years and look forward to making a difference to many more lives.