I am a foster carer. It’s what I do, and I love it. However, I had a life before fostering and it’s surprising how many people ask me what I did before. There are lots of myths surrounding fostering and one of them is that you must have had a professional career in some form of childcare to be able to foster. This isn’t the case. I had no formal childcare training and at the time I started fostering, no children of my own.
Personal Assistant, Editor, Freelance Travel and Food Writer and Shop Assistant were some of my previous jobs as well as running a pub and working as a Chef. None of these are child related but all have transferable skills which I have used many times whilst fostering. Throughout all these jobs, I’d had children in my life by the way of family and my friends’ children. I’d babysat my nieces and nephews’ countless times, taken them on holiday and indulged my Godchildren with outings and frequent playtime. I wasn’t an expert in children, far from it but I had always loved spending time with children and had slowly grown in confidence over the years. I lived around the corner from my brother and his children and had been actively involved in their care from changing nappies to mopping up teenage tears.
In previous blogs I’ve shared how fostering found us accidentally through caring for a young teenager of someone we knew in crisis. We had an informal arrangement with the Local Authority to care for Matthew (not his real name) and he ended up staying with us for 4 years until he was 16. This introduced us to the world of social workers and fostering which, honestly up until that point was something we’d just never thought about.
Once Matt left and having had the opportunity to experience life as a foster carer (as we were in a private arrangement with the LA, we were only approved to foster Matt), we decided to explore it more and did our Skills to Foster training, which all potential foster carers must complete. We met other couples and people all with very diverse backgrounds. One was a teacher, another a paediatric nurse but everyone else came from careers outside of working with children. There was a painter and decorator, a business consultant, estate agent, supermarket assistant, a wedding photographer and many people in support roles such as an office assistant. Many of the potential couples and single carers had children but there were several, like us, who didn’t.
The common thread amongst us was we were able to bring our life experiences, skills from child rearing or our working life and a desire to care, nurture and love children who had experienced trauma and loss. Not everyone completed the course but those who did and went on to the background checks and assessment were able to offer stability, consistency, care and love no matter what their background.
I constantly use my organisational skills which I acquired whilst working as a PA and my writing skills in completing court documents, daily recording and helping with countless homework assignments. Working in customer service has taught me to remain calm during times of stress and generally dealing with the general public when running a pub such as diffusing arguments and potential fights, employing young staff and using my ‘landlady’ voice when needed! Working as a chef has been very useful not only as I have a large repertoire of recipes in my head, but I’ve been able to pass on these skills to children in my care. I’ve had children as young as 3 making cakes with me and learning to handle and identify food.
When Matt left us to make his way in the world, he left with a good groundwork in chef training and years later we are still in touch. I’m now Godmother to his two little girls and he’s a locally award-winning chef.
Whether you’re a police officer, teaching assistant, green grocer, entrepreneur, taxi driver or any of the other myriad of careers out there, the skills you have collected on the way along with life experience will be invaluable in your journey to becoming and being a foster carer.