Capstone Foster Carer, Lesley, recently shared her thought on her fostering journey so far. We really appreciate her honest account and we think her story may inspire others who are thinking of fostering to take the next step to find out more
“Why do you foster? I don’t know how you do it? I could never let them go? It would break my heart?”
Just a few of the things people say to me. My answer is not something that can easily be put into words… In very simplistic terms, my husband and I started fostering because we are unable to have our own family, and so to us it was a way for us to care for children in a family environment.
When we the first child we fostered arrived it soon became apparent that fostering is not just about this. Our first young person did not want to be cared for, did not want to be part of a family unit, especially a foster family and refused to engage with anyone for several months. I was under house arrest as they wouldn’t leave their room and so rather than the young person attending appointments with professionals, I worked directly with the professionals to try and find ways to break through to the young person. I learnt so much and thankfully we did it, baby step by baby step. After years of not going to school the young person returned to full time education, made appropriate friendship groups, started socialising and more importantly started smiling, letting us in and improving their relationship with close family. Seeing the transformation over the 2.5 years this young person was in placement with us is why we really foster. To this day, although the young person is no longer with us, they call us when they are having a tough day and I believe they will always hold a special place in our lives and us in theirs.
“Our years of fostering have taught us a lot, about ourselves and the children that come into our care. We have developed our own skills to enable us to identify the needs of the child and then use the support and resources available to best meet those needs.”
We have supported a number of children of all ages ranging from 9 weeks old through to 14 years old. Each child, however young or old, can come with their own challenges, emotionally, mentally and physically as a result of their life history. As a foster carer you are the one person that will be there 24/7 to help the child develop beyond their early traumas. To achieve this you will receive training to put on the many hats of a foster carer, some of which are assessor, carer, parent, councillor, detective, advisor, listener, teacher, advocate, diplomat and professional.
We’ve had our ups and downs along the way and some days are more difficult than others; challenging child behaviours, complications with birth parents, social care decisions, placement breakdowns and care leavers to name a few. We have worked through these times with the help of our supervising social worker, advice of other foster carers and other professionals. I believe any experience, however good or bad, is a valuable part of learning and gaining skills to help future children coming into our care.
As a foster carer you don’t leave work at 5pm, go home and switch off – this is a 24/7 job and you get out of it what you put in. If I were asked to go back to a 9-5 job the answer would be ‘definitely not’. And when people ask why I do it, maybe instead of trying to answer I should simply ask them to observe, to see the transformation of a broken, scared child grow into a happy, healthy, confident child, because that is what truly makes everything worthwhile.