During Foster Care Fortnight, three Liverpool foster carers write about why they foster….
Alongside my husband Dave, I’ve been a foster carer for the council for 28 years. Sounds like a long time doesn’t it?
I can hardly believe it’s been that long myself. In that time we have cared for 38 young people, from newborn babies to teenagers, and we have frequently offered a home to sibling groups who are so desperate to find a placement with each other that it breaks your heart.
Many of the children remain a part of our family to this day. We have seen them graduate, my husband walked one down the aisle, another I supported through her labour many years later.
You might be wondering what my ‘story’ is? What inspired me to start fostering? Well, at the time we had three young children of our own. And it struck us one day, what would happen to our three children if something happened us to, if for some reason we couldn’t look after them ourselves? Not everyone has family to rely on and it’s such a huge commitment taking on someone else’s child, let alone three!
This was the beginning of our adventure.
Twenty-eight years later and we are still going strong, a bit older, a bit wiser maybe, but still passionate foster carers who want to make a difference, and who want to BE the difference in these children’s lives.
It takes energy to be a foster carer and patience, dedication and teamwork. But you will get so much support from the council’s fostering team and social care colleagues. You’ll never feel on your own as there’s a network behind you and the child, willing you both to succeed.
I’m happy to say that my fostering adventure continues to this day.
I currently work full time – yes full time! – for the council and I can do this as I have a great support network around me and the children I foster are of school age. It helps though that I have an understanding boss who knows about my commitments outside of the workplace.
I look at my own children, all grown up and in jobs of their own, and I know that being part of a foster care family has made them more caring and more considerate of others. My son says it has had a profound effect on his life choices. All three of my children working in caring professions. I couldn’t ask for more.
I was approved as a foster carer only a year ago. I registered after seeing the positive impact that fostering had on three children at my local church, who I have seen blossom under the care of their foster family. I have also been incredibly touched by the suffering of children in Syria and I wanted to be able to do something to help children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in need of a new family, however temporary that may be.
I was both nervous and excited when I got my first placement in September 2017. It happened so quickly! One minute I was at my desk ready to log off for the night and an hour later I was out buying car seats and girls’ pyjamas in preparation for my new foster children. I say ‘children’ as I was asked to look after three siblings, all girls, one aged nine and twins aged six. They arrived just two hours after I received the call, in the clothes they were standing up in, looking pale and worried. Nothing a little TLC couldn’t fix.
The girls are still with me now, over six months later, and I’ve had the absolute pleasure of watching them grow and flourish in my home. They have improved at school so much that their teachers are commenting on how happy they are and how they are now interacting more in lessons and being accepted by their classmates.
I took them to see George’s Marvellous Medicine at the Liverpool Playhouse last month and they said “it was the best day ever”. There is nothing quite like hearing their giggles when pushing them on a swing in the park, or seeing them running through the woods in Speke Hall.
I took the girls to a caravan in October half term, it was the first holiday they had had, and they absolutely loved it. It was like living my childhood again watching them explore everywhere and enjoy the freedom that most children take for granted.
There have been challenges along the way, for a start I am a single carer and I lost my lovely mum just before the girls arrived so some of my support network disappeared quickly. And I’m still here, working for the council as I love my job. So it’s a juggle. I use breakfast and after school clubs some days to give me longer in the office and I have a fabulous boss and workmates, all of whom support me.
I also find it hard not knowing what’s around the corner. How long will the children be with me? How far can I plan ahead? It’s all uncertain and you have to take one day at a time but it’s so rewarding. After a busy day when I’m off to bed and peep in on them, seeing them sleeping peacefully in a warm, clean bed, snuggled with their teddy, makes it all worthwhile.
If you’re thinking about fostering I’d offer you this advice, discuss it with your team leader and manager and see what support will be available to you, you will need time off for LAC (looked after children) reviews, school visits and meetings. You do get an extra five days leave but that can soon be eaten up.
Discuss with your family and friends too, having a good support network around you is so important.
But I’d urge you to go for it, explore the options and don’t think that because you work, or you’re single, or you’re on the wrong side of 50 that you won’t be considered.
I began fostering eight years ago when my wife suggested we look in to the possibility of becoming a foster family.
At the time our own children were five and seven. Our days of bottles and nappies were behind us and we both felt that we had the emotional capacity to take on a new challenge, and what better challenge than providing a caring home for a child less fortunate than one of our own.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a decision we came to overnight and nor should it be. We had to consider the impact on our jobs and, more importantly, on our children. But they are good kids, they enjoy school (to a point!), they are sporty and sociable and they have strong personalities emerging of their own. If anything we knew that fostering would only help them to grow in to more rounded and understanding individuals.
The process of being approved as foster carers took around six months and then we were given the go ahead to look after children of primary school age.
Since then we’ve fostered six children. One young lad for just four-hours, one who is still with us four years later, and more in between.
It’s been challenging. You’ll probably hear that word a lot if you decide to look in to fostering yourself but it shouldn’t be something to put you off. And what’s life without some hurdles anyway.
The children that myself and my wife have fostered over the years have been welcomed in to a home that is clean, warm and filled with love. We can’t offer much more than that, and we don’t need to.
And yes, if you’re wondering about the little one that’s been with us for four years, well, 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 I found him in our lounge surrounded by shattered glass wielding a felt tip pen. He had taken a framed family photo from the mantelpiece, 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.
If you think you can offer a loving and supportive home to a young person in need then get in touch with the Fostering team. Fostering isn’t for everyone, but everyone should consider it before they decide it’s not for them.
Oh, and if you do ring you might end up speaking to me as I work for the team. I didn’t always. I was actually a secondary school teacher when we first began fostering but I caught the bug and I want to get out there, tell people my story, and try to grow our family of foster carers. I do a lot of recruitment events so if you see me (my pictures included) feel free to come over for a chat, I’d love the opportunity to speak to you!
Did you find Sue, Jacquie and Phil’s stories interesting and inspiring? Then get in touch!