When you make your application to become a Foster Carer, you’re embarking on a long and intrusive process of questioning, checking and examination. Aside from some of the more obvious topics we faced, there was one question that I felt uncomfortable in answering fully during our process.
That question was the one enquiring about my lifestyle and hobbies. Obviously your Agency needs to find out near enough everything about you, and of course enquiring about hobbies is a pretty standard process when you’re getting to know someone. What makes it even more important in the fostering process though is that some of that information will be used to match you to any future placements. For example, if you talk about the fact that your hobbies are very musical, and then a child comes into the system who also shares the same interest, it’s a nice starting point.
My husband and I have always fallen into the category of ‘sporty’. We both work, volunteer and participate within a sporty and active lifestyle. There is a little bit more to my adventures in this arena though. For the past 8 years, I have been involved in Pole Fitness.
I hate going to the gym, but Pole Fitness is a sport (yes that’s how I classify it) that has worked wonders for helping keep me both fit and focussed. To my mind, these are qualities to be proud of and to champion in others, especially teenagers. However, society tells me that in my line of work or pursuit, I should keep this hobby quiet, and scramble to hide away my photos whenever someone from the Agency or a potential child comes to meet with us in our home. I hate this. I’m so proud of what I can do, but sadly I do still feel judged.
Whilst I can generally brush off negative comments, it annoys me when people use them against me because they honestly believe “it’s not what a Foster Carer should do”, or, in the words of my mother, “that’s not what a Foster Carer looks like”. Even though the side of pole ‘dancing’ I engage with is a far cry from the roots of night clubs, high heels and glitzy underwear, I still always feel that I have to defend myself. In wanting to avoid that, I sometimes just don’t even mention it at all, which is pretty tough considering that it’s such a big part of my life and something I’m really proud of.
If by this point you’re wondering how this blog fully relates to fostering, I have three pieces of advice for potential or existing Foster Carers:
- Foster Carers are chosen because of the people they are, the experiences they bring, and the role models they can be. There is no set formula for how these people should be ‘made up’ or indeed what they should ‘look’ like, so be honest about who you are and what you do.
- There is enough stigma already surrounding foster children, foster carers, and the whole concept of the fostering process in general. Be proud of who you are and what you do, and remember that changing a young person’s life can only ever be a positive thing.
- The child or young person who comes into your care will no doubt have their own interests, hobbies and pastimes. Keep an open mind to this, and in return in time, those kids will do the same for you.
Taking part in Pole Fitness has really shaped my self-confidence over the years. When you look at all the good that comes from honing the strength, balance, grace, co-ordination and skill it takes to pull off most of the moves I train to master, you start to give your body a break for the way it looks and begin to champion yourself for what it can do. If that attitude doesn’t make me in some way a positive role model for young people in today’s image obsessed society, I don’t know what does.