We have four children of our own and have been foster carers since 2010. Our youngest was six years old when we started fostering, with our older children going off to university. I loved being a mum and fostering was something that I’d always wanted to do. We talked a lot to our youngest two children before we made the final decision.
We have four children of our own and have been foster carers since 2010. Our youngest was six years old when we started fostering, with our older children going off to university. I loved being a mum and fostering was something that I’d always wanted to do. We talked a lot to our youngest two children before we made the final decision. We bought and converted a derelict guest house, which was just perfect in ensuring that everyone was able to have their own space. From experience, I can say to anyone thinking about becoming foster carers that having separate spaces is so important to everyone in a fostering household.
As newly approved foster carers, our first placement was challenging. It was a tough time on all of us. With hindsight, we might not have been the best match for the foster child, as he was the same age as our youngest daughter, and this can sometimes cause jealousy. He had already been moved from eight different families over a four-month period, which is so hard on a young person. We cared for him for 3 years and he was then adopted by another family. When we first had him, he would have tantrums that would last all through the night. This changed over time with care and persistence. He’s 16 now and we’re still in touch with him. Our children handled the situation really well and we received lots of support from Excel Fostering.
During our time as foster carers, we have also taken parent and child placements, which is where either one, or both parents come to stay with their new-born baby for a period of time. This can be really challenging work and you must remember that you are not fostering the baby here. You are guiding the parents on how to safely parent and helping with life skills like personal hygiene, budgeting, cooking and shopping. In some cases, the parents are over 25 and so are adults that may be somewhat set in their ways. You also have to remember that the majority of these parents haven’t had a good parenting example to learn from themselves. You need to have empathy and be aware that for them, they are entering a stranger’s house and that they may have lost children in the past and will think that you will be judging them. You have to be there day and night for them and to foster their skills and knowledge without being patronising. It’s a difficult balancing act but is very rewarding when things work out well.
They have their own place, and their child is happy, healthy, safe and now at school. Not all placements work out so well though and that is always very sad.
We also run a charity and community centre. Often, parent and child placements meant the parent/s had to move away from their own area. They must attend parent and baby groups as part of their assessments, and we recognised how difficult this was for parents coming through foster care with their babies. They found it hard fitting in with the standard parenting groups around with everything they had going on in their own lives and they would just feel like a fish out of water. Because of this, we set up our own supportive parent and child group at our community centre, where parents who were struggling could feel safe from judgement and could support each other. The group has now been running for five years.
We have three boys that we foster currently, ages 8, 9 and 11. Before this, we went through a particularly tough time and almost felt ready to give up …
…then I had a call about these three boys, and I can honestly say that they saved me.
The boys came into our care from a difficult background. They are now on MATTS therapeutic placements, a service which we along with Excel have fought incredibly hard for. The boys were struggling at school to begin with and on the road towards being expelled, however with love, care and the therapy that they so desperately needed, they are now thriving. They are such a blessing and absolute diamonds. They are on a long-term placement with us now, which means they will be with us until they are at least 25 which we are so happy about.
…I would say be prepared for the ride! Fostering is so much more than being able to offer a nice house, space, money, love and care. Remember that no child ever asks to come into foster care. No matter what has happened in their past, coming into a stranger’s home and being away from their own family is a traumatic experience on its own. You should never expect gratitude or thanks from a child in foster care and you do need to be realistic about that in your mind before making the decision.
It will be the hardest thing you will ever do in your life, but the rewards of fostering can be incredible. I remember a boy in our care who had been hugely struggling in all areas getting up on a talent show stage and reading a poem. We were all crying with pride for him (the social workers too!) It was so emotional.
When a child who has never made eye contact or smiled looks straight into your eyes and smiles, those moments are just indescribable.