A life changing experience - Our fostering story
05 April 2023
05 April 2023
My two younger children mentioned becoming a foster family to me at the time. We have four children, and one of our daughters still lived at home. I remember my daughters saying we would make great foster parents, and that ignited something in us to think, ‘You know what? We could do this.’ Our daughters were in their late teens and early 20’s at the time, so I think for them to consider this shows great compassion, and we are proud of them. We have 3 girls and 1 boy in total, and 11 grandchildren! I used to work in catering and did this alongside fostering to begin with, and David is a self-employed painter and decorator. So that gave us flexibility around both of our works, as my employer was very supportive.
Our first foster child Sean went to work with me (aged 15 at the time). It was an ideal weekend and evening job, which helped him get into work, and he really enjoyed it. It gave him a sense of responsibility and, of course, some money to spend. We did mobile catering and went out and did weddings and events, and he loved it, which was lovely to see. I remember Sean loved going shopping with my daughter and me, asking for advice and having a laugh (his mum lived 5 minutes away, so we managed contact often so Sean could see his parents and siblings)
I would sometimes see Sean for a coffee now and then, but with him in his mid-twenties, he has his own life now but is doing well. I gave up work when our second foster child arrived as she has special needs, so I didn’t continue to work alongside fostering, but David still works now and supports.
Sean was our first foster child, and he went into independent living then our second foster child of Becky arrived and has now been with us for 6 years. Becky is nearly 18 now and will be classed as staying put with us now (we have had three placements in total and offered stability for all of them, with two still with us). We have shown Becky the longest stability of a place to live, so she looks up to us as parental figures.
Our current foster children get on well, and Becky likes to take care of our younger foster child Ricky. They have a lovely bond, and it is great to see them both settled.
In the beginning with Sean, there were a few hurdles to overcome and adjust to. Sean was 15 when he came to live with us and had been set in his ways with a few things, such as house rules. However, Sean got on excellent with our daughter, who was still living at home (19 at the time), and he settled in fantastically.
We built a good relationship by showing Sean guidance, support and care to help him adjust to being in care and with respect and boundaries. I always think about the child’s needs and how they would see things and feel at all times, as this reflects how we adapt to the care we give and ensure the child is always stable. You must treat them like the rest of your family, not exclude them and make them feel as much a part of it as the biological family. The whole family has adapted well to being a foster family and loves going on holidays with the foster children. Some of our grandchildren are of similar age to our current two and have great bonds, which is lovely to see.
We also continue to adapt around the child’s needs and have helped get diagnoses for one of our children in foster with us. Again, we are constantly focusing on the child’s needs to get the best outcomes.
All four of our children were very different, so we had some experiences with various challenges over the years. Sometimes things might happen 10 minutes before you are about to leave the front door, and you have to take it in your stride, and then even if it might be stressful, you can laugh about it later on.
We are always helping with space projects, paints, crafts and similar things– if it makes a mess, don't worry, it'll clean up, don't sweat the small stuff, and you might have toys across the floor everywhere, but they will be tidied away and as long as they are having fun that is what matters.
Don't stress about the little things. Let kids be kids as long as they are being safe. Imagine finding glitter for weeks, finding some randomly on your face two weeks later or stuck to the bottom of your sock – that is a day in the life of a foster carer.
Every day you are constantly on the look out, noticing changes, flagging concerns and safeguarding them at all times. That is also very important.
Watching the child come out of their shell, from being shy, withdrawn children to running around playing, interacting with the family, making friends (sometimes they might find it hard to make friends but we support them with this) Having the children playing nicely, having their friends over, achieving in school, and making friends at school – it’s amazing to watch
We have created a book for the children, blankets or sentimental items for the children for keepsakes.
Seeing a child go from having breakdowns to being upset and unsettled at bedtimes to now settled, happy and shining – makes it all worth it, and also watching them grow in school and confidence.
Having to watch your foster child have a breakdown, this could be for many reasons, from changes in school to contact with birth parents changing. This can leave them feeling confused and upset. That is hard, but you must remain calm and patient and always be there for them.
We always struggle to watch our foster child find it hard to make friends, or if people say nasty things to our foster child and we cannot control that. You want to wrap them in cotton wool but also help them know what is right and wrong in life. It is heartbreaking when a child turns up at your door with nothing but a small bag and no personal belonging. We ensure we help our foster children find their identity and personality and grow in themselves.
Our children support us, who are now in their 30’s and 40’s, and if we were poorly, our children could look after children and enjoy taking them out and spending time with them for the day. Sometimes you need to unwind and want to go out for a meal or to a local place over the weekend
Our foster children are always at the forefront of our minds, and you must do that when you are fostering. Having some privacy from time to time and taking time out for your well-being is also important.
Rewarding career, it is life-changing and has been for us.
You are teaching children so much about themselves and life, such as not holding grudges and learning to trust again.
Don't make rash decisions and think about the scenarios or circumstances. Consider how your foster child would see it and from their point of view. You have to have patience, a sense of humour, a good support network around you and be open-minded, non-judgmental and have the time to look after a child. Knowing how to respond to specific situations and having good communication with people. You need to be great at giving reassurance when it is needed.
Nexus has been brilliant – they always get back to you whenever you phone. You are not waiting around for help. The supervising social workers do a grand job and are lovely people who we have got to know over the last nine years. We know that the people at Nexus always care about us and the children. When our social worker visits, they make sure they spend time with everyone and help our foster children with crafts and spend time with them and us, which is lovely.
*Children's names have been changed to protect identities.
05 April 2023