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Meet Melanie and Ernst

Finding out that we had been accepted at panel was such a great feeling, we were so pleased. Unfortunately, it was lockdown so we couldn’t celebrate properly, but we were over the moon.

I am unable to have children of my own and my partner lost his adult son a few years go, which was just devastating. It was around this time that we started to think seriously about becoming foster carers.

In 1984, I was put into foster care myself. My parents separated and left me with my neighbour. My mum took my siblings with her. As a child, I couldn’t understand why I’d been left behind. I stayed with my neighbour for a short time while a foster home was found for me. I was so worried about my siblings and wondered if I would ever see them again. I still see my neighbour now and she has told me that I understandably, spent a lot of my time as a child feeling very angry. Having first-hand experience of how it feels as a child in the care system has helped me to empathise with children going to foster families.

When I was placed with a foster family, they had a daughter of their own aged 11. I was aged 9 at the time, so there was some conflict there. It can be difficult for other children to accept a foster child as part of the family and it’s important that those thinking of becoming foster carers who have their own children consider this; particularly if they would like to foster a child of a similar age.

We found Capstone via a Google search and got in touch. We also tried some adoption agencies and enquired to our local authority about fostering. Capstone got back to us really quickly when we reached out which we really appreciated.  

Finding out that we had been accepted at panel was such a great feeling, we were so pleased. Unfortunately, it was lockdown so we couldn’t celebrate properly, but we were over the moon.

We now foster a 6-year-old and 8-year-old on long-term fostering placements. Both have experienced trauma and in turn have different needs. When trauma has been experienced, it’s so important to try to understand that most behaviour is because of something that has happened to them before they came to you. You have to look beyond how that’s presenting to be able to help them.

I will never forget the experience of the first time we met the children. They were fishing at the time and we went along for an initial “meeting”. They had already been given our family book that tells them all about us and had seen that we had an albino hedgehog (who had unfortunately since passed away). The little girl was fascinated by this and started talking to us about our hedgehog straight away. The little boy took a bit longer to feel comfortable to talk to us. We found an insect that was hurt (a dragonfly I think) and in the end he came over to us out of curiosity.

The next day we met again at a park and played for two hours with them. It was like being kids again.

The day before they came to stay, they visited to see their rooms and to look around the local area. The next day we picked them up. We were in lockdown at the time, and on the one hand it was great to have the opportunity to get to know them; but it was also a shame that they missed out on so much school, as they slipped back in their studies and have never really managed to catch back up again properly.

You always have to be prepared as a foster carer as there are many things that set the children back. That might be another baby being born within their birth family, or a parent not turning up for contact. These are all things that affect them greatly in different ways.

Advocating for the children and their needs is a huge part of being a foster carer.

I’ve fought tooth and nail for support via CAMHS for our foster child. Even when things get difficult, you can never ever give up on these children.

No two days are the same in fostering and it isn’t how I expected it to be when we initially applied. Even after all this time, we’re finding out new things about the children in our care and we’re still learning from each other. You can never fully relax into thinking that life is settled. As soon as the children develop into a new stage and start to feel safe, new feelings come out for them so you’re finding new tactics to help them all of the time.

The best thing about being a foster carer is knowing that you’re making a difference in their life and that you’re setting them out on a good path. You learn from your experiences, give them the love and reassurance that they need and form a lasting bond. We want the children to believe in their minds and hearts that we are their forever family, and we will always be there for them.

I’m really pleased that I’m now going to be encouraging new foster carers by talking to them about fostering. I want to be able to share my story and experiences to help more people think about opening their hearts and homes to foster children.

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