Guest post: "Fostering is hard - but it's the best thing I've ever done"
Foster carer Kim says despite the ups and downs of fostering, helping young people achieve their potential is incredibly fulfilling
Posted on: Wed 21-Sep-16 16:56:16
(21 comments )
When our first foster child arrived, I immediately questioned whether we’d done the right thing. Our sons had grown up and left home, and now we were faced with an 11-year-old boy in our lives. It was nerve-wracking.
Sean had a lot of unresolved issues when he arrived. He had had a difficult start in life, coming from a family with a history of domestic violence. He had no emotional commitment to us to start with; it would be disingenuous to pretend he was part of the family from day one. Adjusting was a process that took time, for him and for us.
We had to take small steps to help him gain a more positive outlook of things, especially women. I became captain of the ship and my husband the first officer. This meant Sean had to come to me for decision-making. Having grown up in a home where women were regularly put down and abused, he began to realise that women are equal and capable. We had to help him unlearn a lot of the negativity he had grown up with - gradually, we saw him blossom. At school, we advocated for Sean. Of course, there were many ups and downs, and frequent phone calls from the school complaining about his behaviour. But we happily took on the role of ‘pushy parents’ when it came to his education, encouraging him to understand what was acceptable and making sure his teachers understood his triggers.
Five years after he first arrived at our house, Sean received his GCSE results. He asked me to go with him to collect them, which felt like a compliment in itself. The head of year was there giving out the envelopes. As he gave Sean his results, he patted me on the back - “You’ve earned these results, too,” he said. “Without you, Sean would never have got these GCSEs.” This meant so much. This is what fostering is to me - enabling these youngsters to reach their full potential and to be able to go out into the world with achievements that can never be taken away from them.
To me, fostering is about helping these young people reach their potential and be able to go out into the world with achievements that can never be taken away from them.
My husband and I had always thought about fostering, but wanted to wait until our sons were independent. One day, an article in a local newspaper caught my attention - there was no time like the present, we decided. I enjoyed my job as a travel agent, but it was starting to feel robotic; I craved a challenge. Our family was behind the idea, so we contacted several agencies, and had visits from them all. We settled on one, and went through a rigorous assessment and training programme. Four months later, we became approved as foster carers.
In addition to children like Sean, we have also taken mother and baby placements. This work varies enormously. Some mums are capable of looking after themselves and just need guidance and reassurance in parenting; others are still children themselves. The main objective is to help the mother set routines and boundaries that are consistent with good parenting.
While some mothers come away confident in caring for their baby, the placements are not always successful. One mother, for example, announced without warning that she was leaving. I pleaded with her, and managed to persuade her to sleep on her decision. In the morning, she paused only to take a parting picture with us, and then left, with barely a backward glance at her three-month-old son.
He stayed with us until he was 17 months old and we supported him through his adoption process. It was incredibly difficult - but it was also an amazing experience. When the day finally came for him to move, he seemed to know. He cried hard, refusing to put his coat on. We took him to the adoptive family and they showed me his specially decorated bedroom. It was beautiful, just right for him. I got quite emotional, and the adopter tried to console me, saying that it must be hard to say goodbye to him after all this time. "No, that’s not it," I said. "This is all I ever dreamed for him."
Toddler, teenager, or mother - it’s incredibly fulfilling to watch someone you’ve worked with and cared for move on to the next stage of their life. Fostering has given me and my husband so much - without a doubt, it’s been the best thing we’ve ever done.
The work foster parents do truly is life changing for a lot of children. You sound wonderful!
This made me cry. What a wonderful thing to do.
I hope you ae proud of yourself and your family
How lovely and what an amazing thing you do. Your comment about it being all you have ever wanted for the little boy made me well up.
Amazing!! coming from foster families myself it's families like yours that help foster children out and get them too a place in life they actually want to be.
Reading this brought a tear to my eye! You and your husband truly are wonderful people to foster and make such a big improvement to these children's lives. I wish you both lots of happiness for the future.
You and your family have proved that it's love & kindness that wins out every time. God bless you X
Wow, what a special woman you are! I too welled up at the part where you said it was all you'd ever wanted for that toddler.
You should be immensely proud of yourself, I'd love to foster one day but worry I wouldn't have the energy.
Can I ask why you went through an agency instead of the council?
I'd love to foster Op, but worried about the effects on my DC (ages 5, 7 & 9). Not sure if you can stipulate babies / under 4 years old only but given the ages of my own DC, I wouldn't want older than 4. Can you stipulate an age?
Well done for all you've achieved.
Generally foster carers are encouraged only to take children younger than their own, so this shouldn't be a problem Ihatched. I don't know what the agencies are like but this is my experience of local authorities.
Incredible story, I really admire you for helping others to have a better start in life. You should be incredibly proud of the difference you make
What a wonderful thing you are doing
I would love to do the same when my son has left home.
This brought act wartime eye too. What a great thing to do for these children and young people.
Act wartime? Sorry *a tear to my eye too.
Thank you for all you do, OP. Our DD's foster parents were wonderful people, and we can never repay our debt to them in giving her the best possible start in life given the very difficult circumstances she was born into.
So wonderful! I would love to foster myself in the future
Just reread EMIN's thread. I have sometimes wondered if I could do what she did (fostering babies in withdrawal). Does anyone know anything about this kind of fostering? Can you do it with other children around? Do you have to be a particular age?
I have fostered a few babies who are withdrawing with 3 young children of my own, I would advise a support network, someone to hand the baby to while you take a break, but the age of Foster carers is very wide now, speak to your local LA
Amongst the other children I've fostered I've had 20 babies, most of them on withdrawal, it can be extremely tough going, one of these babies only ever slept for 20 mins at a time which is draining if you don't have a support network but, oh boy, is it rewarding when you come out the other side and can pass on a lovely pre-toddler to adoptive parents. Adoption is not the ultimate aim of putting babies in a foster home so you'll meet and work with birth parents. Don't think about fostering as a job, it's a way of life with more trials, tribulations and tears than anything you could ever have imagined before you started but also with so much joy. I would advise anyone who thinks they could do it to follow that thought up, there are so many children who need you. Local authorities run regular meetings for prospective carers, give them a ring and go and see them. There are other ways of fostering as well, like respite where you care for a child one weekend or two a month. You don't have to be any specific age, you just need a room, patience, and a big space in your heart. What harm can that do??? But imagine the good that could come out of it.
This is wonderful work and I have just written a book about my experience of fostering. I did short-term fostering and for less than two years, because of a change in my own circumstances, but I felt that most of the things written about fostering are by the parents who get everything right, or professionals - and they often feature children from very difficult backgrounds with heart-wrenching stories and resultant behavioural problems. I wanted to write about some of my funny and lighthearted experiences, but presented in a fictional diary as a day-to-day account of fostering by a disorganised carer who is always running late, worried about the state of the house, completely overwhelmed by the paperwork and rarely convinced that she is doing/saying the right thing - which makes her rather defensive around social workers. None of this, in my view, makes her a bad foster carer, but it does, I hope make for an entertaining read from a different point of view, which might encourage some people to have a go. You should, it is very demanding and difficult, but if you keep your sense of humour, it can also be fun.