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It’s Foster Care Fortnight, the theme this year is ‘this is fostering’ and I was asked 3 questions:
* How has fostering changed my life?
* Have I made a positive impact?
* What does foster care look like for you?
I’m usually too busy to think about what I’m going to be making for dinner or how to make homemade slime. I don’t normally contemplate what direction my life would have taken without fostering but it got me thinking.
How has fostering changed my life?
I often talk about life before fostering as another life as it is so different from my current life, it feels almost as if another person lived it. Before fostering I was working in marketing and my daily life consisted of writing copy, implementing marketing campaigns, meeting clients after work for drinks in London’s busy night life, budget reports, staff management and filling my time off and weekends with social activities with my husband and friends, late night dinners, interesting contemporary films and luxurious foreign holidays. And I loved it.
So why did I give it up to have a household of kids that write on my walls and chuck their shoes in every direction when they come home from school; to wipe runny noses and be woken in the night for cuddles when a bad dream comes; to have a freezer full of chicken nuggets, fight for a young person to pick their chosen options at school, huddle over maths homework hoping they don’t realise that my maths GCSE result was a total fluke, or try to find inventive things to do with egg cartons?
Whilst I loved my past life I kept on thinking there must be more. I will admit I didn’t go out looking for change but it found me anyway by means of a young teenager who came into our lives via someone known to us. He lived with us by special agreement with the Local Authority for 4 years. It was terrifying, rewarding and a huge learning curve, but it steered us to where we are now.
Have I made a positive impact?
My very British self-depreciation flag is waving very hard for me to shrug and say probably and move on, but for once I’m not going to do that. So, yes! Most definitely I (we) have made a difference. The young teen who changed my life went from being heavily involved with drugs (dealing, stealing, as well as taking a rich assortment) to now being a head chef in an award winning hotel. Our current teen was dropped off to us 6 years ago in a police van at 3am with a very big label of being a teenage thug, with minimal school attendance; he is now at university (in the top 1% no less - I’m so proud of him!).
I’ve moved young siblings on to adoption who came to us in terrible circumstances of neglect. Walking away holding back the tears, but seeing how happy they are and getting regular updates from their parents is incredibly rewarding as well as a new positive start for them.
As foster carers we have made a positive impact on our current placement of 3 siblings under 10 by keeping them together and securing their future.
What does foster care look like for me?
Fostering is about the big stuff of being resilient, of being there, being that child’s rock, of fighting their corner, not giving up on them, opening your doors to a myriad of professionals and sharing every Christmas.
It’s also about the small stuff that makes such a difference. Picking up coats thrown off by the front door, cleaning and kissing scraped knees, wiping away angry tears; of giving endless cuddles, arguing about screen time, knowing they’ll eat baked beans but hate peas; of hunting high and low for a pink Paw Patrol duvet cover, being there in the middle of the night to chase away bad dreams, knowing that you have to cut the tags of new t-shirts as they are itchy, filling in endless CAMHS forms and coping with COVID-19 by doing Joe Wicks 5 times a week without tearing a ligament!
Being a foster carer is by far the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life. Yes, it’s 24/7 but I’m so happy I swapped my corporate life of clients and editing for teaching a child how to tie their laces or helping a teenager achieve their potential.