Diana has been a foster carer for over 10 years. Having experienced a happy childhood herself and having worked as a teaching assistant for many years, Diana had always wanted to help children who were having a difficult time to have the chance of a safe, warm and happy home to thrive. Read Diana's story and how she has been able to help many children over the years.
I started out as a foster carer back in 2010. A previous role was as a teaching assistant and during that period, I worked with children with challenging behaviours. I knew that some of the children who displayed difficult behaviours were experiencing a hard time at home. As I was spending time with these children; I listened to them, respected and valued them and in turn, their behaviour towards me changed. It made me realise I had a skill and what a difference I could make just by making myself available when they needed me and listening.
I had a very happy upbringing myself, with lots of laughter and music. This, along with the skills I picked up as a teaching assistant and subsequent role in safeguarding, made me decide that I wanted to give that chance of a safe, secure, warm and happy home to someone else.
I can remember feeling really excited for my first placement which was a sibling placement and getting everything ready for them. I was so eager to make them feel safe and welcome.
I have had a number of foster placements over the years, one of which is my now 17-year-old adopted daughter! I’ve had my current placement since November and it is so wonderful to see how far he has come. To start with, he wouldn’t talk and we heard the word “no” quite a lot. To see his self-esteem and confidence grow over time and then eventually hearing the word “yes” more and more is just incredible and that’s when you know things are changing and what you are doing is working.
This doesn’t happen overnight and is something as foster carers, we have to work incredibly hard for. Why? Because no matter the circumstances, no child coming into foster care wants to be there. To start with, they are thinking “who is this family?”. They have had no control over anything in their lives and this is where, as foster carers, we can make such a huge difference.
Those first few days are so important. Making them feel safe, secure, and welcome and giving them choices so that they can take back some of that control in their lives. Letting them change their room around if they want to, finding out about their culture, what they like to eat, if there’s anything else they need for example.
After time, I encourage them to think about their vision for the future and find out what they are good at. If they don’t know yet, we will explore it together. Their past doesn’t dictate their future. They will never forget their past, but they can focus on their vision and look forward to the future with hope. I let them know they can work towards being anything they want.
As mentioned, change always happens gradually and with lots of work. Sticking to boundaries and teaching them life skills (helping with shopping, gardening, etc.) is really important. They don’t stay children forever and these skills are so vital as they grow. When a child has started to settle, they automatically start to do better educationally and socially and when this happens, there is nothing more rewarding.
We work as a team in my home. There’s my son and adopted daughter, both of whom want to become foster carers later on! All of the children who have been in my care feel part of our family.
…I would say be prepared to work very hard, be prepared to laugh, to cry and to love. Fostering is about as far from bed, board and breakfast that you can get, so be under no illusion that it will be easy. In return, the rewards are just immeasurable. You will know that that child changed because you helped them and one day, they will come back and say thank you.
If you have a heart to care, the determination to work hard and have space in your home, then take that leap. You will still have time to follow your own interests during the day. I will be re-starting study for a master’s degree in September!
If you’re wondering if it’s worth it, I can tell you that I’m currently clearing out another room in my home so that I can help more children! I think that says it all. I’m on a mission.
I actually started out with a different fostering agency but left after a year to move to Capstone Foster Care. Their support and training is second to none. If I get in touch with my supervising social worker and the team for help, I get contacted back that same day without fail; not in a few days’ time which is so important.
The training is really engaging and most importantly can be applied day-to-day. The knowledge and the simplicity of the training makes it unforgettable (and I say this as someone who has been on lots of “forgettable” training courses!). It’s structured well, has a great flow and is incredibly informative.
Thank you to Diana for sharing your fostering journey with us. If you have been inspired by Diana to think about becoming a foster carer, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.