Fostering, who can do it, who would want to do it and what is it like?
I have been asked to write a blog to try and encourage others to foster …. Before the panic sets in I am not going to go on about how amazing being a foster carer is and how everyone should do it! I fully appreciate that fostering isn’t for everyone however I thought I would try and share my honest thoughts and experiences in an attempt to give an insight into being a carer (The good and the bad!)
As a boy I had always wanted to join the Police and like Batman wanted to make a difference and dreamt of catching the baddies, sending them to jail and making the community a better place . . . Unfortunately for Weston they got me and Gotham got Batman! I have been a Police Officer for almost 9 years and think as much as we can all have an impact on a life, the community or the people we deal with it is never really that far reaching, if at all and we rarely get to see the end result which for me I find frustrating.
At 25 years old my partner Sam and I decided to become foster carers for North Somerset council and since this time have had a number of placements, several challenges and many more good memories and successes. I think fostering is a true story of the good, the bad and the ugly!
We started our fostering journey as a childless couple in a rented house however this didn’t set us back from doing it. Since fostering and four placements we’ve bought and renovated a house, had 2 of our own children, Olivia (4) and Fletcher (1) and still don’t regret doing fostering alongside becoming parents or being relatively young in life. My children love my current placement like a brother and for Olivia she is learning that not every child has the same upbringing as her which I think is great education!
I suppose ‘WHY’ is the most obvious question and one which is probably the most easiest to answer. We had a spare bedroom, we wanted to give something back and felt we had the skills to nurture a child to fulfil their potential. As much as we were doing an ‘amazing’’ thing by being carers we were also aware that by fostering we would be able to afford Sam not to work and stay at home and bring up our own children! I suppose some may read this and think we are selfish and have done it for the money but trust me, we haven’t, it doesn’t pay enough and at times is more hassle than it’s worth!
The good, if I start with this I would hope many would see that the benefits outweigh the negatives and consider being a carer. I obviously have to write this without providing details of the children I’ve had however despite the poor starts in life the children we’ve cared for are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. Our most recent and current placement came to us in December 2014 and is with us long term (until he is 18). This child is a true ‘golden’ example of why everyone should foster however you’ve got to remember not every placement is like this but like I said I am starting with the high points!!!!
This child came to us at 12 years old, a smoker, not at mainstream school, no routine and was associating with bad influences where the use of drugs were deemed OK. Even reading this now I think, ‘BLOODY HELL WHY WOULD YOU DO IT, YOU MUST BE MAD!?!?!?’ however having come through the other side I am so proud to say through hard work, our relationship with him, his desire and determination to change he is now a non-smoker, is a healthy footballer thriving in a team, has a brilliant routine, attends secondary school where he is over achieving and by far the best thing (personally) he is an absolute pleasure to have as part of our family!
We have had to work hard to get to this point however it hasn’t been as much as a challenge as some may think and I think this example is exactly why we decided to foster. This child clearly needed the opportunity to develop and by being placed in care and then with us he was given this chance he clearly needed.
‘A JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND STEPS STARTS WITH A SINGLE STEP’
Changing 12 years of bad habits and negative impacts takes time however once this is achieved you get to see the long term result, the one thing we all miss with the people we deal with on a daily basis. This child has, and continues to exceed all expectations and I am so excited for the future for him as without doubt I can see him achieving great things and being a true success … A true hero and shining star of the care system in our eyes!!!!!
‘You’re amazing’ is something I’ve heard on countless occasions however as much as people think that foster carers are amazing, we’re not! The only heroes involved are the children in care who put two fingers up to adversity and walk on through it without looking back and become inspirations to others!
The bad and the thing I think people need to realise before being a carer is …. Being a carer is bloody hard work!!!! Having a child which isn’t your own is a new challenge as you have to accept that there are very different rules between a child in care and your own flesh and blood! The hardest thing we have ever found is that we have been left disappointed that our ambition and desire for a child to succeed isn’t replicated by the child. Not every child wants to be helped or supported and at times it feels like you end up having a long term B&B tenant (but with you as the cleaner, the cook, the taxi and the carer!). The feeling of being uncomfortable in your own home isn’t a nice one and at times, due to wanting different things a placement doesn’t work (However social workers work with you well in these situations) As carers we have learnt to understand that every child is different, every placement is different and you need to be clear with yourself what you want to achieve and what you can offer.
By being foster carers to older children we have had to accept that we are unable to take our own children on cheap term time breaks as we have to work around the child being at school and term time. Weekends off can be consumed with contact, being a taxi for contact or to be supportive at the Sunday football game. As much as this is all hard when you only get weekends off, you have your own children and you’re working hard it’s something that needs to be fully accepted before considering being a carer . . . The care system really is life changing however it’s not just for the child in your care!!!
Finally for the ugly! There really isn’t that much that is ugly however there is plenty that is frustrating! Social services are like us, understaffed and overworked and that’s just the way it is! I could moan about certain things about social services however for support, training and the ability to provide every child a chance in life they are brilliant and should be appreciated more (like us as cops!!!!).
My name is Rich and with 5 years fostering experience I am still only 30 years old. I have been a Police Officer for almost 9 years and despite the stress of work, the long hours and the stress of being a carer I wouldn’t change it!! I think the good far outweighs the bad however if you consider becoming a carer I would give the following advice! Talk it though and through and through with loved ones and understand the full implications on your life! Be prepared for your life to change and finally accept that yours and your family’s life will never be the same again (for the good and the bad!).