Working in health and social care allowed Denise and Andy to use their experience to help children who found themselves in care. Having taken care of siblings in a short term placement, they are looking forward to making a difference to more children’s lives.
As a couple we have six children between us however, we are unable to have biological children together.
We have faced a wide range of challenges blending two families together, my biological children where grown up when we met, the youngest being 18 and Andy’s three children ranging from 7-10 years of age.
Andy went back into education and completed GCSE’s and A levels in a condensed 12-month program, he then went to university. I had been made redundant after 21 years’ service for the local authority in social services, Andy completed a BSc and gained work with Sheffield CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) on a Tier 4 unit and we relocated.
I started working for NHS on the community in district nursing. We struggled with empty nest syndrome and contemplated and deliberated with adoption. At this point we had numerous discussions on fostering and what this could mean to us. We wanted to make a difference to children who had experienced a difficult start in their life, through no fault of their own. Over the next couple of years Andy changed his job from CAMHS to working within EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) system and then he worked in police custody for a mental health service as a youth worker. In all his roles he came across lots of children who have been or are in the care system. Our passion to make a difference was reignited especially when Andy was working in police custody and studying for his masters in Safeguarding. We decided on fostering and changing our careers.
At this point we undertook some serious conversation with our children and then extended family, which gave a mixed bag of opinions from ‘yes to your insane’. Although they gave us 100% support and continue to do so. With my 21 years’ experience of working with families and other professionals in a MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Team) setting and district nursing skills we thought we had a good mix to make a massive difference to life’s of these children and young people.
We approached Capstone Foster Care through an initial enquiry, and Adam contacted Andy and spoke with him and he explored our experiences both work, home and family and invited us to a weekend event/ foster care training. He then came to see us at home and he felt we could be what Capstone Foster Care where looking for and from that initial Friday – Saturday in Manchester we were made to feel part of a Capstone Foster Care family and equally valued, which made us driven and excited to become foster carers and that this was the right decision for us.
We had a lovely and amazingly supportive social worker, Tina, who took us through the process, Tina. The processes involved lots of highs and lots of lows, very emotional with lots of boxes which were firmly closed were now re-opened, the events we had put to bed were now revisited. It was exhausting and tiring with no stone left unturned, however; we were able to understand why this was done, as we would be responsible for looking after some very vulnerable people. The support we received from Tina and Capstone Foster Care was amazing and so valuable, even when we were emotionally drained, they kept us focused and supported on how valuable we were and the experiences we had were so much needed.
The process took around 7-8 months from initial enquiry and being accepted at panel due to the complex past we had experienced both from, Andy’s childhood to the gelling of two families. On May the 8th 2019, Andy and I went to panel with Tina and we were approved as foster carers, this was an emotional day. At this point I gave 4 weeks’ notice at work.
I finished work on the 6th June 2019 and on Monday the 10th two little people arrived as our first placement, a short-term placement, a sibling group of 2 ½ year old and 3-4 year old, that week. We were so nervous, but we soon setteled into out new role, and the quiet house which we had known for so many years became manic with the hustle and bustle of two little ones, that first night they went to bed and we followed 30 mins later, shattered.
This is our only placement to date, we still have one of the siblings, one has been placed on an SGO (Special Guardianship Order), the other is waiting placement for adoption, we are waiting for the next few to follow soon, which we hope will be a long-term foster placement/s.
Even when your day has been hard and difficult, you tuck them up for bed and you get the biggest smile and huge hug, it makes it all so worthwhile. When all you have done is give them the love and respect they are entitled to, a roof over the head, clean clothes and a full belly with firm but fair boundaries, makes it all so, so worthwhile.
We have found that nothing can prepare you for the things you will have to deal with, from the highs to the lows the positive and the negatives. All the appointments, contacts with birth family, and emotional rollercoasters you go through, and this is ten times worse for the little ones. Never ever thought it would be so painful when they move on, to their new forever home. Yes, all the fun days and more, the laughter and brightness they bring to your life.
What can we say, we have an amazing social worker Alison, who is always at the end of a phone, I have a mentor Debbie who is a Capstone foster carer also, foster care training is invaluable! We are able to speak with Alison at any point and her support is fantastic, from recruitment to admin, social workers who are so supportive. Its not like being employed by an employer its like being part of one huge extended family who have one centre point of focus on the children.
We would definitely, recommend Capstone Foster Care to any friend or family or anyone thinking about fostering, it is the most rewarding job in the world, it not easy but love it so much, Andy is now giving up work to use his training and qualifications in a new way and we are to become a two full time foster caring family and are looking to go from two to three children.