Looking after other people’s children for 35 years takes patience, understanding and a commitment to care. But for Gillian White it has changed her life.
For the past 35 years Gillian has provided both short and long term care for more than 200 children. She is currently fostering three young children and offers support and advice to other foster carers based on her many years of experience.
Fostering is no easy ride! Although providing foster care brings with it many rewards; seeing a young person in your care make small steps towards a brighter future is a huge accomplishment, it can also be very challenging and turbulent. Many children in care have experienced abuse or neglect and some may have witnessed domestic violence, substance misuse and inadequate parenting and as a result display very challenging behaviour. But Gillian argues that it is the role of a foster carer to help make the difference and provide opportunities for your foster child to flourish. Gillian became a foster carer to change the lives of vulnerable young people: “I became a foster carer because I wanted to make a difference to the lives of children who had difficulties at home…I am fortunate enough to have the time to commit to fostering and am able to offer children a safe environment in which to grow.”
Support and Training
As a professional foster carer you are fully supported along your fostering journey; both emotionally and financially. However when Gillian first became a foster carer things were very different. “Thirty-five years ago when I started, there wasn’t much training for us. This has dramatically changed over the years and training and support is excellent. I now have regular visits from my supervising social worker and there are courses I can attend to gain more skills and grow my knowledge of how best to handle different situations. There is even out of hours support and someone is always on the end of the telephone if I need any help.”
So what made Gillian choose to become a foster carer all those years ago? “Fostering has made me a better person. I am non-judgemental and more understanding of different situations…It gives me a buzz to know I am making a difference and to know the child is either able to return home or go to new parents for a better life. Seeing the children grow in confidence and meet milestones in their development brings a huge amount of job satisfaction.”
With an estimated 62,000 children and young people living with foster carers across the UK and a further 8,600 carers still urgently needed to meet the demand, foster agencies are desperately searching for foster carers to help provide a warm, loving home environment to the ever increasing number of children in care. As Gillian highlights, “There are children within families whose needs are not being met. Every child deserves the same chances and to live in a safe, loving environment. As a foster carer, you can provide this for them while work is done with their parents or extended family, or while a new home is found for the children.” Gillian believes anyone who really wants to become a foster carer can do so and change their life for the better…as well as the life of a young person.