Becoming a foster carer was something that Viki had always felt she'd wanted to do throughout her whole life. Now an experienced foster carer, Viki talks about her experience over the years and how passionately she feels about keeping siblings together.
I will have been a foster carer for 8 years this October. It’s something I’ve always felt I wanted and needed to do. In my early 30’s I was living in rented accommodation and single and I just didn’t think fostering was an option for me then. I later found out that one of my friends who was also single and renting had become a foster carer and so realising that it was possible, I looked into applying to become a foster carer as soon as I possibly could.
I’ve fostered a number of sibling groups over the years. It didn’t worry me at all having my first sibling placement. I actually really enjoy fostering siblings as it’s a totally different dynamic.
As adults, we crave to find out more about our family, or have questions we’d like answered about our past. Foster children often have even the very basic information about their family taken away from them. In a foster child’s world of uncertainty, their siblings are the only consistency and absolute truth that they know. It’s vital for them to keep hold of their identity and often, their sibling is the only link to family that they have.
What I absolutely love about fostering is that children; no matter what they have been through can learn to accept love. Every placement is so different. Some children rebel against that love, and some might absolutely envelop it.
When a child starts to trust you and looks to you for security and reassurance, that’s when you know you’re getting there and making a difference.
Trust can be the hardest thing to build. A placement that came to me following their previous placement coming to an end after 5 years was understandably difficult. That lack of trust resulted in the fight or flight response, and they tried their hardest to break the placement down themselves before (in their mind) I had the chance to let them down. Consistency is absolutely key in foster care and bit by bit, I’ve built that trust that I’m not going to let them down and leave them too.
A wonderful moment for me is that one of my foster children who has been to college, has now started work. When you look at what they’ve been through, they have just totally broken all of the odds against them, and I am beyond proud.
Another foster child has cracked making pancakes and would make them all day every day if they could now! It’s difficult to explain that feeling of teaching them something and they get it. Helping them to believe “YES, I CAN DO THIS!”
We work so hard as foster carers to pick them up and build the resilience and skills they need.
My daughters were both adults when I became a foster carer, and they fully embraced my choice. We are a really close family and regularly go out and on holidays together. In my son-in-law’s eyes, he has two extra sisters-in-law!
All of my family and friends accept that this is my world now. As a foster carer, you do change so much more than you envisage to start off with. It was a complete lifestyle change for me; however, if it’s somethings you really want to do and you are committed, it’s something you will just do.
I left Excel Fostering for a while after a difficult placement triggered a past personal trauma for me. That was so tough to deal with at the time. I look back on that experience now though and feel incredibly lucky. I experienced my traumas as an adult. To be affected so greatly years later was such a huge insight to me at what these children go through with their own traumas. When you’re in survival mode, you just can’t put the pieces back together. If I felt like that as an adult following a trigger, how do foster children even begin to make sense of what’s happened to them?
After trying a large fostering agency, I soon came back to Excel Fostering. They offer such a personal element. They know your personality and being a small organisation, they are able to get to know you as a foster carer really well. In short, you’re a decent sized fish in a decent sized pond. That wasn’t my experience with a larger foster agency. You can just get lost there and they don’t know anything personal about you.
The training and support at Excel Fostering is absolutely amazing. I go on all of the training courses that I can and if there’s a course I need that they don’t already have, they’ll find it for me. Then there’s Jackie (my supervising social worker). Everyone needs a Jackie! She’s my oracle. There’s nothing she doesn’t know and if there is, she’ll go off to research and come back to me. You need this kind of personal knowledge of you. Jackie can pick up if I’m not feeling okay (even if I say I am) which is something that just wouldn’t happen with a larger organisation.
…join a Facebook group to talk to other foster carers to get an idea of the reality. People might go in expecting to get a child that just needs love and a home, but fostering is SO much more than that. It’s not for everyone. When you’re experiencing challenging behaviour resulting from trauma, you need to have quite a strong backbone. Do as much research as you can you get a sense of the reality.
I have to say that I love everything about fostering, even the downs. You have to have a sense of humour to help you through the hard times. You have the opportunity to build a great social network as a foster carer. I have met one of my best friends through fostering who I would not have otherwise met. We support each other, we go on holiday together. Having support from someone who fully understands is great, even if it’s just a listening ear at the end of the day.
The training courses cement the foundations of the friendships you build and as a peer mentor, I am constantly building relationships with new foster carers too.
Thank you so much to Viki for sharing her experience of fostering. Did you know that there is a huge shortage of foster carers willing to take on siblings in England? If you’ve been inspired by Viki to help keep siblings together, find out more here and don’t hesitate to get in touch for informal chat about becoming a foster carer.