Denise and Steven have been fostering and changing the lives of young people for over 15 years, find out more about their amazing journey here.
Steven and I have been fostering for over 15 years now, we had originally started with a small fostering agency which was then taken over by Capstone Foster Care. We both wanted to start fostering and thought about it for a while and we are glad we finally took the plunge as we love making a difference to so many young people’s lives.
My family life was not the greatest when I was growing up, I remember coming home from school feeling worried about how the atmosphere would be in the house, never knowing if it was going to be a good day or a bad day. I never really felt comfortable and I knew back then that one day I would help other children who may be experiencing the same and provide them with a loving home, so they never have to go through what I did.
We want to help children have the best childhood possible, to allow them to experience things that most people take for granted, and most importantly we want them to be able to go to school and not stand out from their friends because of their home life. It is the best feeling in the world when a child comes home from school and they have made new friends and are fitting right in.
When Steven and I were approved as foster carers it felt amazing because we knew we were going to be able to provide many youngsters with something that we both did not have growing up, a safe and loving home. Our own children have grown up and we had a lot of life left in us, so we knew it was the right time to start our fostering career. We know we are helping many children but sometimes they help us too! They help keep us fit and active, we love playing games with them, and it is amazing to see them transform into confident young people.
When we told our friends and family, we were embarking on our fostering journey they were all supportive about our choice. It did not come as a shock to many of them as they knew we had wanted to do this for a while, and we are always helping others. We did run everything by our children first because their opinions matter the most to us. As you may have already guessed, they were all for us going ahead with applying and the rest is history! Our youngest son provides extra support for us when we need it, so every time we have a placement offered, we discuss it with him to make sure he is ok with everything too.
When we received our first placement, there was a mixture of feelings, we were very nervous but also excited at the same time because we knew this was the start of what we have always wanted. The social worker arrived at midnight with two young children in her car, they stepped out of the car with their belongings in a carrier bag. At first it felt like everything was happening all at once, but we quickly adjusted into our roles and got them settled in for the night. I must admit I did lay awake that night thinking what shall I do in the morning? But when morning came, I gave my social worker a call and she gave us the best advice and reassured us that we can do this. Even though we have been doing this for 15 years, I still get the mixed feelings with each new arrival, I don’t think that feeling will ever go.
It is always sad to see a placement go; I have gotten good at holding myself back slightly, so I don’t get too attached, but you still develop a bond with the children so it always hard when they leave. Although it is a sad time when that happens, we are always so proud of how far each child has come and the progress they have made. Steven and I always strive to do our best when it comes to caring for the children so when they eventually do move on, they are better equipped to go on to the next stage in their life. It is an important part of the job and you can only hope that you have made that positive impact on the children to help them have a brighter outlook on life.
The best thing about fostering for us is knowing we are making a difference to so many lives. There are times when placements can be difficult or not going the way we had hoped but when we see the look in a child’s face, and you see the realisation across their face that they finally understand why you are helping them makes it all worth it. We can give them opportunities they would not have had before and we can also show them that a family can be loving, and that they do deserve love in their lives. Seeing the happiness in their faces is the best feeling in the world.
There have been a few challenges along the way and the journey hasn’t been quite as what we had expected it to be like. We expected it to be really easy, but the reality is you are in charge of providing care to children who depend on you to help them have a positive future. Although it hasn’t been quite as plain sailing as we had expected, the experiences we have had as foster carers have been better that we could have envisaged. The happy moments we share with the children outweigh all the challenges, when there are lows, we always know the highs will make up for it. This job has been the most rewarding job we have both had, and 15 years later we are so glad we applied to become foster carers.
I am very careful about who I would recommend for the role because there are certain traits a person needs to have to be a good foster carer. You also need to be fully committed to the role and be open to welcoming the children into your family, you need to treat them like they are a part of your home. I have seen it before where someone has treated a child in care differently to their other children and that really breaks my heart. It is not the child’s fault they were placed in care; all they are looking for is a family that will welcome them in and love them like the others. Steven and I always make sure we do this because of our own personal experiences of difficult upbringings, we could never let a child feel like that.
We would love to see more people become foster carers because we know how rewarding it is. There are so many children out there who need foster homes, and this number is only getting higher and higher each year.
The support we have had from Capstone Foster Care has been very good, especially our social worker Angela who is always there for us whenever we need her, day, or night. We are looking forward to what our fostering future has ahead of us.
If anyone reading this who is thinking about fostering, the best advice we can give you is, do not limit yourself as a foster carer as there are endless opportunities. Do not have an ideal picture in your head as usually that’s not how it works, each child has different needs and by having an ideal scenario in your head you are missing out on the chance of caring for some amazing young people.