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The difference my spare bedroom made to a 14 year old boy

10th March, 2022

I knew during the first lock down I wanted to foster. Fostering was something I had thought about before, but the timing just hadn’t been right. I knew I had the space inside the house. I had a spare room which was an annexe that I had originally thought might make a great place for visitors to stay. On reflection, all my family pretty much live within a 12 mile radius from me and it wasn’t really being used. Then of course, Covid meant that nobody stayed anywhere, and the room was just sitting there.

When I did my initial research on what it took to be a foster carer, it was very high up on the list that I must have a spare room. In fact, when I saw the Facebook advert from Capstone Foster Care which kickstarted me on my journey to become a foster carer, I noticed that so many people said they would love to foster but didn’t have the spare room.

It might seem harsh initially to people who wanted to offer a home for a vulnerable child, but when you understand the safeguarding issues from sharing and the importance of personal space for a foster child, it then makes sense.

I soon realised that the annexe would not be the spare room that I used for fostering but it would mean that my nephew and his partner would move down into it. They had recently decorated their room and were pretty settled, so I made the decision to give my bedroom up and move down to the annexe whilst I was going through the assessment.

I initially didn’t have that much confidence that I would be approved. I had to have a virtual visit, then completed a 3 day course, Skills to Foster, and if I was successful then the next stage was to be assessed by an independent social worker known as an assessing social worker. Lots of stages, and my application wasn’t straight forward. I had overcome many things from my early adulthood, and I did consider that I would be deemed not suitable as a foster carer. I talk about this in more detail in my other blogs about the application process, but needless to say I was not going to move all my furniture to the annexe until I got further down the process.

My assessing social worker sent me the welcome book for me to complete. This is used by the placements team to introduce you to the local authority and also to give the child a chance to see where they are going to live before they arrive. This seemed the right time to move out of my room and go to the annexe as I needed to take some pictures.

I hate moving rooms; you find so much rubbish you shouldn’t have! But this was overridden by the excitement of dressing the room ready for a foster child.

The problem was, how do you do this? The age range I wanted to foster was between 5-18 years old. It’s a large room, so I was also asking to be considered for siblings. I had two single beds and there was much discussion as to the best way to place the beds. I wanted it to feel homely and not like a dorm.

Then I hit the Amazon shopping button and started to get the room ready. I decided, as my home is virtually a farm, then this would be a great theme. I’m not sure why, but I had in my mind that I would get an 8 year old. My purchases included

  • Farm themed duvet covers, as I have sheep, border collies and horses.
  • LED night lights that looked like bunny rabbits.
  • A big, bright, cheerful rainbow type of rug. I called it my happy rug.
  • Towels and other washing bag items, as children often turn up with nothing.
  • Books. A selection from the charity shop, but also some of my childhood ones that I loved to read. I wanted to give them something that was precious to me.
  • Board games and activity games for the rainy days.
  • A desk my nephew no longer wanted.

It looked great! I took the pictures and added them to my welcome pack.

I quite liked living in the annexe. I had my own en-suite and didn’t fancy moving again. During the assessment, it was made clear to me that I needed to be closer to a child if they needed me in the middle of the night, so I would have to move and do a swap with my nephew. I was hesitant to do this straight away, but the penny finally dropped that if I got through the panel (which was very soon), I would be a foster carer! So we did one last room shuffle, paint and move and finally, everyone was in the right room and my foster child’s room was ready.

In August 2021, I was matched with B, a wonderful 14-year-old. He visited with his previous carer and saw his room for the first time. I knew he wouldn’t like the farm duvets, as they were too young. Before he came, I went online shopping again and got two red star duvets to match the curtains. It seemed very cheerful, and I hoped he would like it.

One of the big things to make a foster child welcome is to let them customise their room so that it’s their space. It is the only safe space they feel they have at first as everything is new and different.

There was a 3-week transition period before B moved in, so we had time to change the room to more of his style. B loves grey. Yep, drab grey and so out went the bright happy rug, the red star curtains were changed for grey ones and all the duvets and rugs were changed to grey too. We could have painted the room together which is often a good way of bonding, but I have family members that are decorators, so I managed to beg a favour. The walls were then painted grey. I can laugh now how dull the room looked but he was delighted with it! His previous room had been grey, and I imagine that level of familiarity for him was important. We also installed the all-important LED lights which seem to range from being on red or blue.

The second bed was moved out and he didn’t want the desk in the room. When he arrived, he soon filled the room with his belongings and his gecko, Sammy. It looked very much like a teenager’s room and the usual mandatory use of the floor as the wardrobe. It’s funny that such a good basketball player can’t manage to throw his clothes in the washing basket.

Over the last 150 days his bed has moved a couple of times in positions and various pictures put on the wall. He loves to collect trainers and there are boxes everywhere. There is always music coming from the room and he loves spending time in there, chatting with his friends on the phone. He has made it his own.

It is important that I respect his space.

There are aspects of fostering regarding bedrooms that means that his room is his personal space and I tend only to go in there when he asks me to help him with something.

My niece, who was also living with me, has since moved out to buy her own home and I do have another spare room now. I would love to be able to use it for another foster child in the future, but until B is older, we have made it into a games room for him and this is where his new friends come round and have fun.

Every day, I feel so privileged to be a foster carer. The things I have learnt, the way I have changed as a person and the times we spend together. There is also a feeling that I’m glad I was able to offer a place in my home, that I had a spare room and I have given my home and heart to a super young man.

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