Having adopted two children, Julie and Richard knew that they wanted to make more of a difference to young people’s lives and they decided to foster. They transferred to us and have taken care of 8 children in last 8 years.
After spending the last 18 years as foster carers we have a lot to look back on. Wonderful placements, amazing memories and heart filled with experiences.
I grew up in a house filled with students, so I always knew what it was like having parents who looked after people. Growing up in a household like that was hugely significant as I never saw my home as just my home. So, after I met Richard and we adopted our own two wonderful children, I always knew that one day we would give fostering a go. Our children were such an incredible gift that we wanted to be able to give something back… and here we are all these years later still taking placements and trying to make a difference to young lives.
Our way into fostering was slightly different to how it would be now as it was quite a long time ago. We had some friends who were foster carers, and we would also help to take part in activity days and with child sitting. This gave us a glimpse into the fostering world, so once we had the space, and our children were 10 and 5 years old, we decided to take that step and become foster carers ourselves.
We spent our first 9 years with another smaller agency and then in 2012 we joined the Capstone Foster Care family. Our transition from one agency to another was nice and smooth and although there were some differences we had to get used to, we settled in well and now feel incredibly supported.
Looking back to our first placement I can remember us both naturally feeling quite apprehensive about the whole thing. Although we had some experience and we knew the young person coming to stay with us as they were with some friends of ours who were also foster carers, it’s still very different having someone come to stay and live with you. One important piece of advice is that to say when you need more help and support, it can be difficult in the beginning as you don’t want to look like you are struggling, but it is so important! But we got used to it slowly and learnt quickly that it was always best to be ourselves from the very beginning of a placement so that there aren’t so many changes for the young person, there is no point putting on a show for the first few days and weeks for then things to change when things go back to normal.
We understand now from our experience that every placement is very different and its everchanging, but we need to always be the same. We have also learnt that we are best at doing what we are good at, me being a mother and Richard being the one who has more get up and go. Young people will adapt to the home they are in as long as we as foster carers are relaxed, we know who we are and what our boundaries are.
Since then and over the years, our fostering placements have varied but we had mostly looked after teenagers on both a short and long-term basis. Having been youth workers in our communities for 20 years, Richard and I already had the experience of working with teenagers, so we felt this was right for us when starting out. We learnt so much during this period and have used these skills throughout our whole fostering journey.
Then years later we decided to take on a new challenge and decided to look after younger children and now we currently have a wonderful 8 and 9-year-old who are with us and doing really well. At first, we thought we wouldn’t have the energy but we actually really enjoying the busier lifestyle and have adapted. We can see the progress that are making and hopefully we can steer their way forward so that they can reach their full potential in the future.
Fostering was not what we originally expected, and I think we went into it with rose tinted glasses on. We weren’t really prepared for the depth of emotion some of these children would come to us with but being able to help them work through their past trauma and give them new memories, makes it all worth it. We just want to give them hope for their futures. I would say that it’s probably better to have no expectations and to just go with the flow, as every placement is so different. We have had placements that have been incredible, but we have also had some more difficult moments where we didn’t know if we wanted to do it anymore, but just because one child has done something that’s taken you off guard, doesn’t mean the next child will do the same thing. You just have to revaluate every time a child leaves, take a breather and then start again knowing this placement will be different to the last. These are things that you don’t know when you first begin but you learn over time, although even now after doing it for a long time we still have issues and are learning every day.
We have created lifelong bonds with some of our young people. Helped some move on to independence and had to say goodbye to others which is still hard to accept. However, knowing the difference we can make, keeps us going. You don’t change these children, you just help to bring them up safely, in the hope that one day they will look back and remember the way you were and what you taught them. That’s all you can hope for. I would say that is our biggest achievement as foster carers, Providing a safe, secure relationship between carer and young person. That is everlasting!
If I’m honest, we are quite humble about being foster carers, but it really is worthwhile! However, we do need many more foster carers, so we would just like to say that we would recommend Capstone, and if you are thinking about fostering, it is definitely worth contacting them! The support has been brilliant, they’re always on hand when we need them, and the training has been key to helping us with our placements. Over the years I feel as though Capstone has really learnt to listen to its foster carers and have made some great changes because of this. It’s important to have people that support and believe in you.