"I didn’t have a fantastic childhood growing up myself. I wasn’t in care, but I probably should have been looking back."
I had always wanted to become a foster carer. I didn’t have a fantastic childhood growing up myself. I wasn’t in care, but I probably should have been looking back. For us, it was about finding the right time. I worked in a school as a Teaching Assistant for many years. When our children got to the ages that they didn’t need us quite so much anymore and things had started to change in the school I was working in, we decided it was the right time to take that leap. We’ve been fostering now for around 13 years.
During our time as foster carers, we have adopted an amazing boy who we’d originally fostered as an 11-month-old baby and have looked after a number of sibling groups.
We don’t tend to sugar coat things, as we think it’s important to be realistic and we can tell you that fostering is HARD. It’s natural to come into the process thinking that you might take a child in, give them a loving, safe home, take them to different places and maybe away on holiday to give them experiences they might not have had before. In reality, many of the children coming into foster care are traumatised by their past. It might take a long time until they are even ready for things like day trips and holidays, as they have been living in survival mode for so long. Often, you are trying to establish a hidden disability like an attachment disorder for example, or trying to work out their age. They may be 14 in their years, but in reality, maybe they are 7 mentally. You have to work backwards first before you can even start to move forwards to be able to truly help them.
No two foster placements are ever the same, so you can never fully prepare. Two boys on short-term foster care came to us severely traumatised and so we are currently using therapeutic parenting methods. I’m sleeping in the same room as them as one will always wake up screaming and just needs to know that I am there for him. I only need to reach out to touch him and he then settles. It really is a 24/7 job. When they initially arrived, every other word was a swearword for one of them, but just a few weeks later, that’s totally changed. With consistency and routine, over time you start to see these amazing changes in the children.
We always say that boundaries are like hugs to the children we care for. They don’t always want them, but they also love them. They mean that someone actually cares for them and wants to keep them safe. They are like a security blanket.
We enjoy the dynamic that sibling groups bring and feel that they suit really well to our busy home environment in the way that they have each other for support. In our experience, we have found that not all siblings should be kept together though. There are some cases where the level of trauma has been experienced very differently for each of the siblings and at those times, remaining together isn’t always helpful.
As foster carers, we have lost friends along the way. It can be difficult for people to understand the complexities of what the children have been through and how it affects them. Parenting styles they might believe are the right way just don’t work with a child who has been through a traumatic experience. The friends that you do keep as foster carers are absolutely the ones worth keeping though. It’s important to have a good support network around you. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a large one, just a few people you can turn to for support and who understand.
The best thing about being a foster carer for us was of course that we got to adopt our wonderful son!
That aside, we absolutely love the satisfaction of giving children a foundation for life and adulthood. Showing them what they can achieve and letting them know that they don’t need to compare themselves to others, they just need to focus on the best THEY can be.
We transferred to Excel Fostering when we wanted to adopt our son. They supported us all the way during that time. We have an amazing supervising social worker now, who is just perfect for us. She leaves us to it when that’s appropriate but is always there for us whenever we need her. Sometimes, you have to fight hard for the children to get the things they need. That can be incredibly uncomfortable at times, but if you have the support of good supervising social worker, that really does make all the difference.