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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Mon 12-May-14 13:09:08

Guest post: Fostering - 'what I've learnt so far'

Today marks the start of Foster Care Fortnight, a campaign aimed at raising the profile of fostering. MN blogger A Home is not a House - who already has children of her own - has just been approved for fostering for a second time. In this guest post, she reflects on the impact welcoming a foster child has had on her family, and shares what they've learnt.

A Home is not a House

A Home is not a House

Posted on: Mon 12-May-14 13:09:08


Lead photo

"It wasn't all shiny and happy - foster caring never is"

My husband and I have children of our own - and another baby on the way - but we both knew before we met each other that we wanted to be foster carers. It was never a question of ‘will we?’, but ‘when will we?’

We first enquired about the fostering process when I was made redundant and coming to the end of maternity leave. I'd previously worked with looked-after children, so I quizzed an old colleague about it and was surprised to discover we could start straight away. We sat on the news for a few months, allowing it to sink in and ensuring we were certain about the decision, before starting the approval process in September 2012.

We've just been re-approved to foster for another year. Getting the green light again was a challenging, self-reflective process; we scrutinised ourselves - and so did our foster child, their social worker, and their independent reviewing officer. It wasn't all shiny and happy – foster caring never is – but it gave us a chance to reflect on what we've learnt so far:

The approval process doesn't just test whether you are right for fostering; it builds your empathy.
Looking back, the initial approval process is a good practice run for the actual fostering. The scrutiny of having your life dissected and assessed can make you feel vulnerable and exposed, but these experiences help you to empathise with the vulnerable and exposed foster child who has just moved into your home.

Once you're approved, you live in limbo until you get ‘the call’ - then it is go, go, go!

Looking back, the initial approval process is a good practice run for the actual fostering. The scrutiny of having your life dissected and assessed can make you feel vulnerable and exposed, but these experiences help you to empathise with the vulnerable and exposed foster child who has just moved into your home.

We waited a few months to be matched with a child - one major reason being the young ages of our own children. We wanted to ensure that the right referral came our way. This meant months of waiting, ready for our foster child to arrive and not knowing when. In the end it all happened very quickly – there was just over an hour from us saying 'yes', to their arrival. There was an element of 'panic stations', but that all needed to evaporate as soon as they arrived – we had to become the sanctuary of calm they needed in order to feel as much at home as possible in those first few hours.

Foster children are time consuming.
My foster child asked me the other day if they were "stressful or easy". I could truthfully say that they were not stressful (OK, so there are stressful moments – on the whole though...), but that sometimes they needed a lot of my time to be able to talk through stuff, like relationships and family problems. I've had to manage this so that I can give them the time they need, without it impacting on the rest of family life. This has sometimes meant late evenings (or short nights!), but we've learnt to adapt.

The office is always open.
Working with vulnerable children, you usually get the chance to leave the office and go home at the end of the day. Not so with fostering, which can make it incredibly draining. Foster carers are at high risk of suffering secondary post-traumatic stress, due to the experiences they have with their foster children - so it's really important to have a good support network around you, to be honest with your social worker when you're finding things tough, and to take respite before things get too much.

The toughest times can teach the greatest lessons.
We have had some difficult times with our foster child. Christmas was certainly not easy. But getting over these difficulties - forgiving, reconciling and recovering - have been lessons for our foster child that they have never had the chance to learn before.

Life will change for everyone.
I've always had the attitude that fostering needed to be beneficial to everyone in the family, and, reflecting on the year, I believe it has been. My children have adapted brilliantly – they've welcomed our foster child into their home, and shared their space, time, toys and parents with them. As a couple, my husband and I have had to make a proactive effort to take time out together, even if it means a late night. This is especially important when things are difficult and you need each other for support.

We all knew that our foster child was never going to be with us long term, and we've already been given the date when they will be leaving. It's a transition that we'll all be preparing for over the next couple of months. Our foster child's social workers and next placement will be helping, but we'll also need to prepare our own kids for the change too. After nearly a year together, it will be hard for us all – we've established new routines, new traditions, and family jokes that won't be forgotten. The most important thing is that moving on will be a positive step for our foster child, and we want to support them through that. Before our foster child moves out, though, we have a new addition moving in – another baby!

By A Home is not a House


Devora Mon 12-May-14 23:25:29

Loved reading this! As an adoptive parent, I take my hat off to you - where would we be without you guys?

essyroo Tue 13-May-14 19:23:07

Great to read this, thank you. We have been approved as foster carers since 2011, when our own two children were aged 3 and 5, and we too have just had another baby of our own! As challenging as it has been, the children who have come into our lives through fostering have all enriched it, and will always be part of us despite moving on, and we're looking forward to getting going again in a couple of months!

juliechappers Tue 13-May-14 19:50:07

We have been approved foster carers for 6 months with a private agency for a long term placement for 2 children - as yet we have not had anything referred to us. We have friends who are in the same situation approved for 3 kids but are yet to have any success. There are so many kids out there who need a home long term but it seems that it all comes down to funding from the local authorities. We live in hope that we will get some foster children soon.

bottersnikes Thu 15-May-14 10:05:50

A really lovely blog, thank you! We have been foster carers since 2011 and wish that more people would consider fostering. It is not for everyone but there are so many vulnerable children out there who need our love and support. We can and will make a difference smile

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