Debbie is a single foster carer fostering siblings.
I am a single foster carer that has been fostering with Excel Fostering for just 15 months.
Fostering was something I have always wanted to do and thought about a lot as I found it really interesting. I previously ran a nursery for over 20 years, where I worked with many children of different development stages. Some were looked after children who were from very difficult backgrounds and were quite challenging. However, I love a challenge and my biggest role within the nursery setting was to make sure those looked after children were not forgotten about and they were cared for. I made the necessary interventions to ensure these children were given a chance and developed in line with the other children, in a happy and caring environment, where they could be children.
As a single foster parent, it was a risk for me. I was giving up a really good job to become a foster carer and I needed the support of my friends and family more than ever. You have to have a solid support network around you. Thankfully, my family and friends have been amazing. My parents were fully supportive and my sister (who is also my best friend) had previously worked in social services, so we were able to discuss this at length and in great detail with her knowledge and experience.
I would definitely advise that anybody thinking of fostering to talk to their family and friends first because it can affect them too. There was a lot of emotional feelings within my family and a few concerns at first because I have two nieces who I am very close to. They were worried it would have an impact on their life. Many discussions were had with the whole family and it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. However, I was delighted that they all came on board and have been incredible support for me ever since.
I researched a number of agencies. It was such a massive decision for me, and I knew from the initial meeting with Excel Fostering that they were the agency for me. The information packs and the training I received was very professional and informative. I have really enjoyed the training. My SSW (supervising social worker) is always there on the end of the phone and will always contact me at least once a week by phone or email to ask how we’re getting on.
It took some time to get my first placement, it came after a few weeks but I was out at dinner and had just had a sip of wine when I got the call. I felt mixed emotions, quite nervous but excited at the same time. I made sure I was all prepared, the room was ready and I had new pyjamas in all sizes and toothbrushes on hand ready for the call. I think I was worried how they would take to me, but I always put myself in their shoes and think what I would want. All the children know they are welcome with open arms and are going to be safe.
I have had twelve placements so far ranging from 1-15 years of age, with seven girls and five boys. I have had emergency placements in the middle of the night. I have done bridging, respite for other carers. I have had a two-week placement and a five-week placement and at present I have got two siblings who I have had for 6 months.
I have found it really rewarding but very challenging at times. My experience at the nursery has certainly helped me in this role. I also recently received a counselling qualification that has helped me to understand the teenagers I had in placement. I used to give them advice but have now learnt to listen which is all they wanted. I hope to go on and do further counselling and mental health qualifications in children.
I don’t have children of my own but I am very close to my two nieces and they have both been very supportive of me on this journey and have been great to role models to the children in my care.
Being a single carer, it can be very difficult at times. My plan was to return to work once a child was settled in and work around them so that hasn’t been possible yet. One of my children needed 24-hour care and support and I really enjoyed the time spent with her on days out and trips. I felt such a sense of achievement afterwards.
I would advise anyone thinking of fostering to be aware that nothing can be planned for in this role and you must be very flexible and adaptable because no child is ever the same and they need different levels of support, some more than others.
For me, the best thing about fostering is making a difference and watching the children in your care gain confidence in themselves in such a short period of time. Most of these children have never felt believed in or had a positive role model. I like to give my children opportunities such as teaching them how to ride a bike and taking them to swimming lessons, things they have never come across before. There is nothing nicer than watching a child ride a bike for the first time in their life (might end up in the bushes a few times…).
Fostering as a whole, has been harder than I imagined. Trying to fit everything around it. It’s emotionally draining because it is constant and there are many sleepless nights where children need you. Many nights I have stayed up talking to my teenagers because they needed someone to talk to. It’s not like a day job at all, I can’t stress that enough. I always believe, that if they have a bad day where things have got too much for them, then we will end it on a positive note and tomorrow is another day.
I have had a couple of emergencies and my SSW was so calm and reassuring. It really helped me overcome the difficult situations. I can’t praise Excel Fostering enough and I am so thankful to the team. I couldn’t do this job without the support, no chance. I can’t imagine not having someone there to comfort you and support you through it.
I would absolutely recommend Excel Fostering to my friends and family and have done so. I often get asked how it is going, and I am always honest in my response and say there has been a few hurdles but tell them how I overcame them. It’s been the best thing I have ever done, and I am really enjoying it. Hopefully many more people will consider doing it.
One of the questions I get asked quite often is “how do you give them back?” and the truth is, it is difficult because you do get attached to them. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong job. I have a strong feeling for every single one because you put so much time and effort into them and you learn everything about them.
I would definitely recommend it if you have plenty of time and love to give, a spare room and can provide a happy environment, I’d say go for it. No regrets!