Phil Watson and his family have been fostering for Liverpool City Council since 2010.
Phil is also a fostering recruitment officer for Liverpool City Council Fostering Service and offers support and advice to prospective foster carers.
When men turn 40, it’s traditional to have a midlife crisis. I decided to become a foster carer. More accurately, my wife suggested we explore the possibility of becoming a foster family.
Humans flourish, but only in the right circumstances.
Our birth children were five and seven years old and although I am biased, they are really rather fantastic kids, being academic, sporty and fairly sociable.
My job as a secondary school teacher was demanding, but going well. My wife was a solicitor. We lived in a semi-detached house with pebble dash and a compost heap. Perhaps we were in danger of becoming a little ordinary.
At first glance, the risks seemed to outweigh any benefits.
Would we have room in our house and hearts for an extra child?
How would our kids be affected? More importantly, would my wife still have time for me?
My wife took us along to a council information event. I’d been on worst dates!
We heard stories from a foster carer and a young adult who had grown up in foster homes. Their stories had us both crying and laughing.
Many adults who have grown up in care, struggle in later life.
Many of our homeless, our prison population, and those suffering from mental health issues were once in care. This information offended my sense of justice. It was not enough to feel pity, I had to show compassion, and take action. As Christians, we were also strongly motivated by our faith and God’s obvious heart for the ‘orphan’.
Our own situation also influenced me. My own children had begun to go on sleep-overs.
I’m sure your kids have done the same, or will do so in the future. I remember my son, then aged five, showing a little bit of anxiety about spending a night at his best friend’s house.
I sought to reassure him.
My son knew what he would be having for tea, he knew where the toilet was, he was taking his own duvet and pillow, his own bag of power rangers and a bag of sweets. He knew what he’d be watching on TV, and he knew his Dad would be picking him up in the morning.
And yet, he was still nervous.
I began to wonder. What would it be like for a five-year-old, or younger, to be taken to a stranger’s house and left there, perhaps forever?
I knew we could keep a child safe. We could provide food, a warm bed and some sort of reassurance. This is the essence of fostering.
My wife rang the council and registered our interest to become foster carers.
Six months later, we were approved as Foster Carers for Liverpool City Council.
A foster kid wrote this message on my iPad. Outstanding literacy and a lovely, precious sentiment.
Ten years on and we have fostered eight separate children.
We have had children for four hours, a week, six months, and one who we decided to adopt.
We just fell in love with him and he fell in love with us. He’s not the most articulate child and can have trouble accessing and expressing his feelings in a socially acceptable way. However, one day when he had been with us a while, he was being ominously quiet. I found him in our lounge surrounded by shattered glass wielding a permanent felt tip pen. He had taken a framed family photo from the mantle-piece, punched the glass out, and added a picture of himself. I’m not a psychologist, but it was fairly obvious what he was trying to say.
Fostering isn’t for everyone, but everyone should consider it, before they decide it’s not for them.