When the pandemic hit, many people felt as though their lives were turned upside down. Life as we knew it came to a halt as everyone tried their best to adjust to a new normal. The national lockdown was hard for everyone, especially those with children – keeping the little ones busy wasn’t so easy when many fun activities were off-limits.
In our blog, we spoke to foster parents, Gemma and Kate, who gave us some insight into how foster families were coping during the lockdown.
Gemma and Kate started fostering together in June and have been foster parents for almost three years - their first foster placement was a short-term placement and lasted only six months. Kate is 43 years old and works as a senior traffic warden, while Gemma is 39 years old, and her full-time role is fostering. Both parents like to be equally involved with the children and split their parenting responsibility.
When learning about Gemma and Kate, we discussed their life under lockdown whilst fostering two girls – a six-year-old and a four-year-old.
The girls came to live with Gemma and Kate on Valentine’s Day 2020. They had previously lived with their grandma and found the first initial weeks of separation quite hard. During this time, the youngest was not at school or nursery as she was too young, while the oldest was at preschool. When Gemma describes first meeting the girls she says:
“Even though they had everything taken away, they handled it well. Contact was a bit hard to start with, especially for our eldest, who was close to her Mum, so separation was quite difficult.”
When asked to explain how the commencement of lockdowns affected the girls, Gemma replied:
“To be honest, it didn’t really affect them too badly. They had nice weather, and perhaps saw it as a bit of holiday away from school. Activities outside helped us get closer to the girls quicker, as were able to spend a lot of time together to bond. Once school reopened again, they had already had that foundation period of settling in with us carers, so had more confidence when they returned.”
In the midst of the lockdown, Gemma and Kate’s case is quite unique as due to the girls’ ages, they didn’t have the added pressures of home-schooling. This experience is perhaps not the most reflective of many families across the UK, as many children had to adapt to learning from virtual lessons online. Gemma commented:
“As the girls were young, we didn’t have great pressures with home-schooling or social support networks. Our eldest was 4 and the youngest nearly 2 – so we got away with not home-schooling as much.”
With the introduction of new social distancing measures, maintaining regular contact with the girls’ family members became increasingly difficult. Gemma recounted their experience:
“In the beginning, the girls had some physical contact with their parents. However, as the lockdown progressed, we had to settle for three facetimes a week – and that was a bit difficult, as it's hard to get little ones to sit still. Especially when the weather was so nice, and they wanted to play in the garden! And we think their Mum found that a bit hard, too. Plus, there was nothing really to be updated on, as no one could go anywhere!”
Whilst many aspects of the lockdown were challenging, Gemma felt that the experience did also help her and Kate’s relationship with the girls. They were able to solely focus on both the girls and get to know them better. Gemma was also happy to announce that they had been approved for long term foster care.
When asked if they see lockdown as a blessing for the relationships they have with the girls, or if they wish they’d been able to experience ‘normal life’, Gemma commented:
“It’s pretty normal for us really – as much as it affected us in the beginning, such as losing the ability to meet our own family as much and spend time with them, it cemented our relationship with the girls. We’ve also made up for it since then, and have had lots of family time with our own families and friends.”
If you feel touched by Gemma and Kate’s story and are interested in becoming foster parents - our friendly team of experts are always on hand to help. Find out more about how to become a foster carer today.
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