One of our carers has written a touching account of why they become a foster carer, the realities of what it is like to foster and why they are proud to foster.
“Things hadn’t been good for Sarah, my 14 year old friend for some time. Her parents fought, her dad drank – he would lose his temper and lash out. She was injured a couple of times and became quiet and withdrawn. She was always looking for a reason to come to my house for tea. So, when Sarah came to school and told me that she wanted to run away from home, I wasn’t surprised, however the reason did surprise me – Sarah’s social worker had said they were looking for a foster placement for her. Sarah was terrified, physically shaking when she told me, she didn’t really know why but her fear was real! That was enough to spark my interest in foster care, and ultimately drove my desire to show children and young people that foster care is not something to be feared.
“Something I can be proud of in years to come”
So at the age of 26, I was in a position that left me looking for a more fulfilling career; something I can be proud of in years to come. So after lots of research and the support and encouragement of my wife, I made a call that led to a new way of life for us.
The process has been streamlined somewhat since we were assessed. The assessment is still thorough – it needs to be to ensure that foster carers are able to provide stability for a child or young person and includes a medical and police check. The process also includes training, advice and support. Deciding who you can offer a place in your home for can be difficult, but going through the process with an experienced social worker can help you decide on what age range, number of children and type of placement you can best offer.
“Each one of them needed a friendly face”
We have been foster carers for nearly 10 years now. In that time, we have looked after many children. Some for a couple of days while their carers were away, some for several years with plans for them to remain with us until they are adults. We have cared for sick children, children with additional needs, some who have behavioural difficulties, young adults who experienced bereavement, a couple who had been in bother with the police and some children who were mistreated. One thing that they all had in common was that they were frightened when they arrived at our front door. Each one of them needed a friendly face, a warm smile, and reassurance.
How do we do it?
Firstly and most importantly we only accept the placement if we think it is the right fit for our family, our expertise and the child concerned. Then we take it step by step. We learn their name, ask them what they like, listen to what they say and get to know them. We try to teach them we are not to be feared, that we will listen, comfort, support and advocate for them, just as they deserve.
Do we get attached?
Yes, every time, to each and every one of them. We believe that to provide a child or young person with what they need we should get attached. We do genuinely care about the children and we should show them love and affection. It does affect us when they move. It really hurts, but our pain is only a fragment of what the child felt when they walked into our home having left their family and everything they knew. We helped a child feel loved and cared for and improved their life opportunities. That makes our pain bearable and worthwhile.
How do we let them go?
Because it’s part of what we do, and it’s best for the child! Supporting a child to return home to a parent who has turned their life around, is an amazing feeling. Helping a family member to take on a child who thought their family didn’t care for them changes their life. Supporting a young adult to set up their own home is a rewarding and very proud moment, for the young person and us.
Who can foster?
Carers are welcomed from all walks of life. Age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and relationship status are not important. You would need to be able to keep up with the children, have plenty of patience and enthusiasm and a spare room.
Where did we start?
I took time to call my Local Authority fostering team and several agencies with offices local to us. I asked questions about support, training and how they felt our lifestyle and background would be accepted by their team. We asked for information packs to be sent out and carefully considered how we felt about each call and the information provided. Ultimately, we decided Swiis Foster Care were the agency for us. We felt they could offer training that suited us, and support me to become a full time carer both practically and financially. Throughout our 10 years, we have felt valued and supported as part of a team of professionals.”
If this story has inspired you to foster, please get in touch today.
For Foster Care Fortnight 2017 we’re celebrating not only how fostering transforms the lives of young people, but also the amazing foster carers who dedicate their lives to helping them.