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Published on: 2015-06-04 13:57:00
Connections to fostering happen in surprising ways. For instance, recently, we heard the truly inspirational story of a single dad who, at his lowest ebb, was helped by social workers and foster carers. That help changed his life in so many ways. This is Mike's story...
"They say you never know what’s around the corner and I couldn’t possibly have second guessed what was about to happen to me. You see, I was, I thought, happily married to my wife and with our beautiful new born baby, Sarah, life seemed good. But cracks started to appear in our marriage and eventually, my wife decided to move away, a long way away, and she took our baby with her.
Obviously, I was devastated and it took me a year to get back on my feet. I missed my wife but mostly, I missed Sarah. I had updates and was able to visit her from time to time, but not enough to see that she was in and out of hospital on a regular basis because she was being abused by her own mother. The shock was horrific and a diagnosis that my wife had ‘Munchausen’s by Proxy’, now known by health professionals as Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII) was made."
Many hundreds of miles from his home, Mike had to stand by and watch as Sarah, just a year old, was taken in to care. So began the six month process for Mike to gain custody of Sarah and become her full time dad.
“I was going through an awful experience and without the guidance, hope and support given by the all the professionals helping to look after Sarah, the outcome could have been very different. I realised what an important role they played in keeping children safe and helping families to get back together in a safe environment. It didn’t take long for me to realise my existing career had little significance compared to the role of these professionals. I thought long and hard and, in a life-changing moment, decided I would re-train as a social worker to pay forward some of the kindness given to Sarah and me in our time of need. The lovely foster carers who took Sarah in to their home for those six months, kept her safe, loved her as their own and, when the time came, gave her back to me. She had become a healthy, happy and well-adjusted toddler.
As a social worker, I can see situations from both sides now and am always very aware that if the situation I found myself in had happened to me, it could happen to anyone. I never judge and make sure all decisions are made in the best interests of the child or children.”
Sarah’s an adult now and mum to her own brood of children. Mike is a happy and doting grandpa, working as a part time social worker for a local authority, so he can spend more time with his grandchildren. He is rightly proud of his daughter fondly reminiscing about his experiences of bringing up a young daughter alone “I used to get some strange looks from people who were suspicious of a single dad looking after their child and asking for suitable baby-changing facilities! This was at a time when it was highly unusual for this to be the role of a male. Thankfully, things have changed a lot since then; it’s a lot easier for men to be the main care giver and I wouldn’t swap the joy and challenges of bringing up Sarah alone for anything.”
If you’ve been inspired to have a change of career and help people like Mike, why not talk to us about becoming a foster carer. Babies like Sarah don’t come along every day, but we have many children, particularly teenagers, who’ve suffered abuse and neglect who need a stable, happy and supportive home. They may be older but inside they’re still vulnerable.