‘If I had my time again, I wish I had started my fostering journey sooner.’
06 October 2023
06 October 2023
After 23 years of working within the corporate world, Deb, a foster carer from Nottingham, took redundancy after she became disillusioned with what she was doing. Shortly after she received a flyer from Nexus Fostering through her door and her fostering journey began. Now 10 years on, Deb discusses her core memories and challenges and explains ‘If I had my time again, I wish I had started my fostering journey sooner.’ Deb and her partner have taken two of their foster children through to the age of 18, with their young man now in a Staying Put arrangement, they now offer respite care.
‘I am 10 years in now and I still have the same social worker, which has been a massive part of our journey and success. Naomi has always been there for us in any emergency and I have always felt very supported by Nexus.’
Their Supervising Social Worker, Naomi, has been with them from the very beginning, ‘We made contact with Nexus, and at this point I wasn’t sure if fostering was for me but I met a social worker Naomi, who is still our social worker to this day. I wanted to go through the process and see if they think I am right for the role and see if it is the right path for me. I found the process really helpful to gather as much information as possible’.
After growing up in a large family with 5 siblings and after only having one birth child of her own, Deb then focused on her career. However, Deb had always been drawn to children and mentioned,
‘I’m always the one in the supermarket smiling and making funny faces at babies and children, I knew I had a love and passion for them’.
After working as a regional merchandising manager for a greeting card company and managing a large team. Deb explained ‘part of my role which I really enjoyed was training the area managers to be the best that they could be, and that’s what maybe led me to supporting children and enabling them to be the best they can be.’
Deb mentioned that although her partner took more of a backseat driver approach to the fostering side he was supportive of her career change ‘Fostering was my next journey and Andrew came along on the journey with me’.
Deb explained the process to become a foster carer can be invasive ‘I think as long as you are truthful and honest then it's just part of the process. They need to know everything, I did have some things in my past that I wouldn’t choose to share with strangers, but you have to in order to progress, it's important they check every aspect of your life.’
After becoming approved foster carers, Deb explains how daunting the matching process can be.
‘On one day I had three phone calls for different children, and I struggled to make the decision as to which was best suited to our family. I pushed the decision back to Nexus and Naomi, and with their experience they made the final decision. They chose our placement in the morning and he arrived later that day’.
Their young man, was 10 years old when he arrived in 2014, Deb speaks about his first night.
‘It had been so traumatic for him, it took us around 45 minutes to get him out the car. He had been picked up from school by a social worker, taken to get some clothes, and then essentially dropped off to strangers. I remember putting him to bed and it suddenly dawned on me that I was now responsible for somebody else’s child’.
Deb talks about how he has always been a good child and had a vivid imagination. ‘He used to tell me he had been horse riding, so I thought great and booked him a horse riding lesson. We got there and we had to leave because he was actually allergic to horses.’
She explained how day-to-day tasks could sometimes be challenging.
‘He used to hate going in the bath. So I used to sit outside the bathroom with a timer for 2 minutes and gradually he started to like them, now he showers twice a day without fail’.
Now 19 years old, there young man is on a Staying Put arrangement and has a girlfriend and a job and is doing great. Deb mentioned ‘he is adjusting to being a child not in care and becoming an independent adult.’ In their last review, their young man thanked them for everything they had done and recognised how his life would have been very different if he hadn’t come into care and stayed with his birth parents.
A good support network is vital as a foster carer and along with her partner, Deb’s birth daughter, Emily, was 30 years old when they had their first placement and was always supportive. ‘Emily has cared for our young man while we went away on holiday. He's got a great relationship with Emily, her husband, and her twin children.’ Deb has formed close relationships with the carers for the siblings of her young man.
‘Sharon cares for his sisters and Collette for his elder brother. This formed originally as the siblings went to family contact 3 times a week and we would go to a coffee shop. We make all the family contact arrangements to keep the siblings in touch, we would arrange to go to theme parks during the school holidays together and arrange regular play dates. Our young man still has a very close relationship with his siblings which is great to see.’
Deb’s second placement, at just 14 years old had experienced roaming on the streets and had been on the verge of grooming, Deb speaks about the challenges they faced as a family caring for a teenager from the battles to groundings.
‘We have been lucky to go on a 3-day therapeutic training course and had a 1 on 1 to help understand her behaviour. The teenage world she had grown up in was very different from the one we had. He gave us a lot of invaluable tricks and suggestions and ways forward.’
She stayed with Deb and her family for 4 years until she turned 18. Deb explained how after leaving them ‘She had a hard time going in and out of shelters and had been homeless but now at 22 she has a 2-year-old daughter, a house and is back at college studying, I’m her go-to person for contact for anything she is unsure of and advice. She still stays with us occasionally and I visit her regularly. She is a very good mum and although it was difficult at the time, we have a good relationship now and will often tell me she wishes she stayed with us for longer’.
Their 3rd placement unfortunately lasted 6 months and sadly didn’t turn out the way they had hoped. The conflict between the child and their current placements led to a traumatic time for the family. ‘I had to put the other children first along with my own health. I still think about him now and worry, unfortunately, this can be the hard part of fostering’.
Deb and Andrew have since done respite,
‘I think we looked into respite as I am now 62, I thought we wouldn’t have the time to take another child through to 18 and commit to a long-term placement. We also want to do a bit of traveling and respite fits around this. I have a regular respite arrangement within Nexus, the young boy comes once a month for a weekend, and we are having him for a week during October half-term’.
Deb mentioned how important it is for carers to have a break and not just reach out when they are at breaking point, it's an opportunity to refocus and recharge.
Deb’s advice to other new foster carers is ‘to choose your battles and be prepared for the unexpected as you never know the level of trauma the child has been exposed to’. She hopes for a more positive light to be shared of fostering so that more people come forward to help vulnerable children and young people.
‘A lot of people are worried about the bad side of fostering, the children's behaviour but we need to celebrate the success stories and what the children do achieve. A lot of the children that do come into foster care, go on to become great adults and live a fulfilling life.’
06 October 2023