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My first year of fostering: My life has changed for the better

18th December, 2020

A blog written by a Capstone Foster Carer who has completed her first year as a foster carer, read about her journey below:

Wow! What a Year!

I am just coming to the end of my first year of fostering and it has gone by so quickly! I was working as an Assistant Head for Inclusion at a local school when I first felt fostering was something I would like to do one day. There was a particularly challenging foster child in our school who I worked with through her time there and building a relationship with her was one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my teaching career. I did not think I would be able to manage as a single carer, so I put the thought of becoming a foster carer to the back of my mind. I could not stop thinking about the young girl, she had made a significant impact on me that would change my life nearly 12 years later.

I became disillusioned and frustrated with teaching and so despite still being single, decided that I would explore if fostering could be an option for me. I filled in an online form on the Capstone Foster Care website one weekend and received a phone call on the Monday and I agreed to an initial visit for the following week. I started to feel excited as I realised fostering could be possible for me as a single carer.

I continued teaching whilst the assessment process was underway, which involved two visits a week from an assessor, this lasted around four months. Managing all of this became quite hectic and it felt like a bit of a whirlwind, but my assessing social worker was lovely, made me feel at ease and I quite enjoyed the process of looking back at my life and the things that had led me to the place I was now in and the person I had become.

Going to panel at the end of this assessment was one of the most daunting experiences of my life, worse than any job interview I have had previously. My whole life was in the assessment form they had read and yet I knew very little about them, I felt very vulnerable, but they did their best to make it feel less threatening than it felt. 

Next came the waiting for my first placement, I read a few referrals along the way and had said yes to some and no to others, and then one in particular came through that I just felt it was the right one, but I still had to wait for the decision to be made by the local authority before I was chosen to care for her. Once this was decided it happened quite quickly, I met the social worker on Monday, sent my foster child a video and some photos on Wednesday, visited her current placement on Thursday and she moved in on Friday. I am not going to lie, it was scary. My whole life was about to change. I had never had children of my own and so had no idea what it would be like to live with a child in my home 24/7 but it has been a massive learning curve.

Since my foster child arrived, the whirlwind has continued.  She is loud, lively, confident, and outgoing and has so much to give. She spent the first eight weeks with me without a school place.  This was exhausting but I kept positive, this would be the worst it would get right? Suddenly, we were hit with a global pandemic and a national lockdown! I am thankful I was able to keep her in a routine as she was able to carry on attending school but not having the usual routine of clubs and seeing family, really challenged us both. It was an isolating experience and I had to keep reminding myself that my life had completely changed in less than six months. Just six months before, I had been teaching full time and living the single life, I was coming and going as I pleased, watching what I wanted on TV and now I had another addition to my life which needed my care and love. 

Once my foster child started to feel safe and began spending more time in her safe place, she started to reveal some of the trauma she had been though and how vulnerable she really is.  She is amazing at masking how she’s really feeling, so behind that loud, confident front was a scared and worried girl who had experienced so much in her life and the only way she knew how to manage it all was to fight. So, the safer she felt, the more she revealed of herself and the more she wanted to run away from herself or to fight, usually me or my small dog. Staying consistent for her was hard going, but I can now see the small steps of progress and change in her as she begins to discover who she is beyond her past. 

I think partly due to Covid-19 and partly due to the huge life changes I have made, I went through a period of time of feeling like I’d lost myself and I am just starting to find things I can do for me when she’s at school. I have joined a weekly art class and am looking at getting back into schools and doing pet therapy with my amazingly calm and patient dog. My lifeline through all of this was the support from the Capstone MATTs team, my supervising social worker and the WhatsApp groups with other foster carers. There is always someone you can ask questions and let off steam with.

The best part for me has been the process of finding out who she really is, what makes her shine and stand out from the crowd and then helping her find ways to develop that further.  She is creative and has a natural flare for music. She loves animals and one day wants to be a vet. I am looking forward to helping her grow into all she is meant to be along the way. She has made a huge impact on my life and as difficult as it has been at times, I cannot imagine going back to the life I was living a year ago.

Some handy tips for that first year:

·  Go to all the training you can manage, not necessarily for the training but to talk to other foster carers and hear their stories.

·  Do not blame yourself when it feels like it is going wrong around you, speak up, ask for help, and take advice.

·  If you do feel a placement isn’t working for you, remember you haven’t failed if you’ve done your best; it’s not your burden (some wise words said to me at a low point).

·  Be honest and be real about how you are feeling.

·  Build in regular time for you, an art class, a long walk, or a weekly trip for a quiet coffee and a read or something else, but keep this time blocked out in your diary for you.

·  You often know the child better than most of the people around them, so do not be afraid to stand up for them and fight for them when you need to.

·  Find your foster child’s interests and talents, encourage them, find clubs for them to continue with this and watch them shine – it will encourage you to see them too.

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