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Meet Bethany and Leanne

Although I wasn’t a foster child myself, I was brought up within a fostering family. My sister was fostered from nine years old and was then adopted by my parents the day before her 18th birthday. Once we had grown up and left home, my parents continued to foster many children. Watching them help so many children and seeing what a tight unit they were was amazing and I have always been inspired by them.  

I initially trained as a professional dancer. I then had my son, and I couldn’t go back to dancing afterwards and so started working in SEN schools where I helped lots of children who were displaying challenging behaviours. I absolutely loved my work and I definitely used some of the skills I’d picked up from my mum and dad over the years. It almost felt like my calling.

Leanne is a high school teacher and has had a different background to me. Fostering wasn’t initially on the radar for her. It was lockdown that made us sit back and re-evaluate our lives and it was actually Leanne who suggested that we start looking into fostering during this time. It’s funny as if it wasn’t for lockdown, I don’t think we would have considered it for at least another few years. Having the time to stop and breathe made us think about the things that were really important in life. We lived in a two-bed bungalow at the time and once the decision was made, we moved into a four bedroom house specifically so we could start fostering!

Leanne felt quite apprehensive about the assessment process to begin with because it is so in-depth. We both however ended up finding the process enjoyable, interesting and therapeutic even. I’d hated school as a child and had experienced a really difficult time there, but our supervising social worker reassured us that you need to have overcome issues yourself in life to be able to help others with empathy. Leanne and I hadn’t been together for a really long time, so we ended up finding things out about each other’s childhoods, etc. that we didn’t know about before. It was really interesting, and we loved it. We were approved as foster carers in July 2021.

We have so far had three short-term placements. One ran away within 15 minutes of arriving which was quite stressful! It made us realise just how much extra support you get working with Excel Fostering. We called the local authority straight away, but they didn’t seem to know anything about the foster child. We know it’s not anyone’s fault and would be down to large caseloads, but at that point, we really needed some help. Thankfully, our supervising social worker from Excel Fostering knew everything about the foster child and was able to give us an amazing level of support. The training to become foster carers is brilliant, but nothing can ever fully prepare you for moments like that.

Being so close to a fostering family with my mum and dad, I feel probably more prepared than most people do for the fostering journey (although nothing can fully prepare you). Leanne has found some things to be a real eye opener. Everyone brings their own unique set of life experiences and skills as foster carers and so everyone’s experience of fostering will be unique and different. The training is amazing, but you also have to use and further develop your own resilience.

My son has absolutely loved having the short-term foster children in the house. The girls that are older than him have made him feel quite cool! My mum was his childcare before lockdown, so he’s grown up with foster children around him in my mum’s house and has seen children coming and going and different behaviours. He is very caring and isn’t your typical 4-year-old boy.

To someone thinking about fostering, I would say….

…do your research and chat to Excel Fostering. When we spoke to them, we felt valued and respected from the very first phone call, so we would never have gone anywhere else. If you’re thinking about fostering and have patience, resilience, flexibility and space, then go for it! It’s the best thing you could do and it feels nice to be able to give something back to the world.

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