A rewarding decision
With more and more children coming into care; 1 every 22 minutes, foster carers are urgently needed across the UK.
Deciding to be a foster carer is not an easy decision. I became a foster carer seven years ago and it certainly proved to be harder work than I expected! However it was definitely the most rewarding decision I have ever made, besides get married and have my own children.
Letting go is never easy
I chose to foster to keep children safe and to help their families. Of course letting go is always difficult but to see a family coming together makes me realise I have done it for the right reasons and helped to make a difference.
Fostering, is often difficult to manage when you have a family of your own already; you have to make sure you give everyone enough time and attention so we all feel part of the family all of the time.
I can say though that my whole family has benefited from being a part of fostering. My children have learnt to be patient, understanding and grateful – especially when their belongings were ‘borrowed’ by foster children! They grew to share and appreciate that there are children in a worse position than they are – they will never have to leave their family.
Maintaining family contact
Every child I looked after had experienced loss and grief and all of them had mixed emotions about not living with their parents. I know that more of than not, the best place for children is to be with their parents-not all parents have been abusive. Social workers try very hard to keep families together and the ones I have worked with feel frustrated and often angry about the lack of choices and support they have to give to families. As a foster carer it is always important that I maintain contact with families to ensure children remember that they still belong to a family and have not been forgotten.
Just be there
Most children I foster want more than anything to be back with their families, even if a parent or relative has abused them. They struggle to manage their feelings; feeling like they are on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I haven’t met a foster child who wasn’t confused and angry about being put in foster care and when you talk to them they are either angry at themselves believing they are to blame, or angry at their parents for letting them down. It is our role as a foster carer to help them to understand why they feel like they do and make sense of their situation. Sometimes they scream and yell, or run away, or hurt themselves, or hurt other people. It is important not to take their behaviour personally, and just be there to help or just listen.
I have recently been taking Parent and Child placements which offer a home to a baby or young child together with its parent for 12-24 weeks. It may be that a parent has not had a positive family life and as a foster carer I help them to develop their own parenting skills whilst ensuring the child is in a safe, secure and nurturing environment.
There is a growing need for more foster carers in the UK who are interested in looking after young, most often teenage mothers and their babies. I looked after a young mum who left school at 15. She was in and out of children homes, eventually living back with her mother but they continually argued and ‘Tracy’ soon became pregnant.
Tracy was not coping and it was decided that she and her unborn baby were at risk so her local social services agreed it was best to place Tracy in a foster home. With no qualifications and an unstable home-life, Julie would have faced an uphill battle trying to provide a secure and loving home for her baby. The statistics show that babies born to teenage mothers often end up in care.
Tracy was five months pregnant when she moved to foster care. She had her baby son, stayed for six months then moved into her own flat and with help, started a hairdresser course at her local college. With the help of a foster carer, mum and baby were given the best start possible.
You can make a real difference
With over 62,000 children living with foster families across the UK and a further 8,600 foster carers still needed this year alone. If you are thinking about becoming a foster carer you have the privilege to really make a massive difference for the better in children’s lives!