What made me decide to foster? I think my work experience is the main contributor towards that decision. I worked in in a Residential Children's Home for a long time. It really opened my eyes to how vulnerable these young people are and how they really just need to feel cared about. I realised that I could provide care for these vulnerable children and young people from my own home and help keep siblings together. Which is something that really means a lot to me.
I think for the longest time I didn't think I could Foster. I didn't think I was strong enough, but actually, if you have the ability to care for someone and to look out for their best interests then you're halfway there.
The best advice I have for someone who is thinking of fostering is to go into this knowing that your 'work' is endless and at times it is tiring but I can honestly say, hand on heart it is incredibly rewarding. You require bucket loads of patience, the capacity to be consistent, boundaries are important but so is the ability to be flexible as well. Always put yourself in the child's / young persons shoes and have empathy, not sympathy. Some of them have been through some of the most difficult things you can imagine.
My happiest memory of Fostering is watching them reach milestones regardless of how small; from being able to hold a spoon or a pencil, to achieving awards and passing exams.
What you have gained from the fostering experience?
There are several ‘gains’ from fostering. The most important gain is being able to experience the feeling of being a parent and have a positive impact on a child's life. It’s the simple things that give you the most satisfaction. Being there for losing a first tooth, wrapping the presents for Christmas day, seeing their faces when you go on a family day trip and sharing new experiences. Overall being so proud of seeing the children develop. It is by far the most rewarding thing we have ever done.
What qualities you feel a person needs to foster?
I think you need to be open minded, resilient, have a positive outlook and remember that the behaviour is not the child’s fault, it is always learnt behaviour that you as a carer need to manage and learn to understand. More often than not it is the only way they know how to react. It will get easier, don’t give up as the rewards of seeing the children flourish into teens is just around the corner.
Do you have anything to say about encouraging people from all backgrounds to come forward and dispel the myths.
There are common Myths about a same sex couples and fostering, which are untrue.
Two men cannot foster girls. This is untrue, we are approved to look after any child from 0 - 18 and up to 3 siblings.
You must be well paid for what you do. You get a sizeable allowance to look after the children in your care, but as like some parents we have regular savings for when they reach 18. We give the children experiences that they necessarily wouldn’t have if they weren’t in our care.
You cannot work if you foster. Again this is untrue. We have our own business and work full time. We believe that this should be encouraged to demonstrate work ethic to the children and that if you work hard you can achieve.
People say “I couldn’t do what you do, I couldn’t give them back”. This is something that personally we would have difficulty with, but it was explained in the very first initial meeting that we would need to be given training and support on this. When you become a foster parent you realise what the job is and children can have a positive experience whilst in your care then, when birth family have demonstrated that the children can go back home, it is a positive experience for everybody involved.
Male carers are going to have allegations made from the children, it is not worth it. You have safer caring policies in place to protect you and minimise the risk of allegations. We bring the children up as though they are our own but would never compromise the safer caring policy. Being honest and open to your agency / social worker is key as well as accurate reporting.
Overall we cannot imagine our life now without having children in our care. The children enrich your life in more ways than we could have hoped for. When we first met, you couldn’t get married let alone have children. We never believed we would ever have children in our home, we didn’t think it was possible. Fostering gave us that reality, and we love being a part of our blended family.
Well, where to start? I have always cared for children in some form or another, I studied child protection in my role as a Paediatric Nurse and I think that really reaffirmed what I already knew; that I love to care for those young people that need it but also that I think I could make a real life-changing difference to a child.
We had an extension built and a spare bedroom was available, we wanted to give a child a place in our home and give them a good childhood. We wanted them to feel loved and supported by people that cared about them. So we did just that.
I think fostering impacts on the whole family and my advice would be to consider how fostering would affect those closest to you before you commit to applying. Having those initial discussions, before we started the fostering journey with Futures For Children, really confirmed to us that we were ready to start the process and were strong enough to cope with any difficulties that might have come up.
Do expect lots of visits and meetings, often in your own home. The support you have access to is second to none. Do take advantage of the Support Groups that Futures For Children supply and speak to other carers! We had a chance to meet up with other carers via Futures’ before we applied and it was fantastic.
I think one of the most rewarding aspects of fostering is having the foster children, past and present, write nice words to you in birthday or Christmas cards and also when I hear them tell others how they appreciate all I've done for them and how I've always supported them through everything - good or bad.
Meet Chelsea, a former Futures For Children looked-after-child. Chelsea grew up in foster care from a young age.
To be more precise she grew up within Futures For Children placements and we are proud to say she has gone on to achieve so much, for not only herself but also for the looked-after-children within the company.