Lucy Stevens - 10th February 2021
A foster carer’s perspective
The UK is suffering a severe shortage of foster carers. One of the many reasons for this is that people generally don’t have a full understanding of what fostering looks like. So, why do people foster? What do they love about it? Where do they find the joy in it?
We’ve asked some of our foster carers across Essex, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire what they love about fostering and what they find difficult. This week we’ll be hearing from Julie, Nigel and Lesley.
Julie, Foster Carer, Suffolk
I love fostering and get real enjoyment and satisfaction from bringing out the best in a child. Fostering makes a huge difference in the life of a child but these differences are often seemingly small such as seeing them really laugh, watching them achieve goals, seeing them try things which they wouldn’t have done previously. I also really enjoy seeing how my birth children have grown and developed over the years and how positively they have contributed to fostering.
Of course, it isn’t all plain sailing. Committing to care for children takes hard work and comes with many challenges. Some of the things that I find difficult are dealing with the behaviours that are borne out of trauma and adverse early life experiences. Even though you can understand where these behaviours come from and empathise greatly with the children, you often have to tap into reserves of patience. It can also be hard to guide children as they enter their teens. Often they won’t have learnt key skills in their early lives to help them and so you have to teach them later in life. Simple things like taking turns and sharing, spatial awareness, personal hygiene and showing empathy towards others may not have ever been taught to them and yet are so important.
My fostering would not have been as smooth without Eastern Fostering Services. They are always there; the team has a broad spectrum of experience on tap. Everyone knows us and our boys and always support us individually and as a team to help the whole family.
They provide comprehensive training which is also a great way of meeting the other carers – I am really looking forward to meeting up with everyone face to face again once the current restrictions are lifted!
Nigel and Lesley, Foster Carers, Essex
Fostering is a way of life for us. We consider it a privilege to give of ourselves to others. The most rewarding thing about fostering is making a difference in the lives of children, whether for 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 years! Every interaction is an opportunity to make a positive impact. We provide a safe haven in which to offer love and an acceptance of who they are. We get great joy in watching tears turn into smiles.
Of course, fostering comes with its challenges. What we find most difficult is when challenging behaviour is the only way a child has to express themselves. Over time, we aim to give children alternative means to communicate their pain and loss but whilst children find their way, it can be tough. We might be on the receiving end of abusive or aggressive behaviour. And of course, sometimes, once we’ve exhausted all avenues to the best of our abilities, we have the difficult decision of accepting that what we have to offer is not what the child needs.
But one thing is for sure, there is never a dull moment and for every difficult memory, there is a precious one. We remember one August Bank Holiday when we took in 3 brothers – what an eventful weekend involving both the police and fire service! But we also remember the 18 month old child who came to us under a shared care arrangement. She was profoundly deaf and we had many hurdles to overcome, including learning British Sign Language. Yet last year we had the privilege of attending her wedding. This encapsulates fostering perfectly – the reward is rarely instant!
We get through the hard times by working as a team, supporting and helping each other. We have a positive relationship with our Eastern Fostering Services social worker. We feel able to discuss even the smallest of ‘niggles’ with her. We have received support from others within the agency to discuss particular aspects of dealing with behaviour. We are confident in the support offered. These things are not to be underestimated.
And what do the children have to say?
Our children talk to us regularly about how they are and tell us what they think of their carers. Here are just a few responses from them.
- “I love being taken on days out to the beach and getting ice cream.”
- “I like being part of the family and I feel I am listened to. My carers support me in everything.”
- “I like the food!”
- “I like it that my carers do fun activities with me.”
- “I like reading stories with my carer.”
Get in touch
If, like Julie, Nigel and Lesley, you would like to offer a nurturing home to children who need one, please do get in touch with us. You can do this via our website, or via Facebook. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The virtual touch
For those who would like to meet face to face to discuss fostering, we are offering the opportunity to do so via zoom. Full details are on our website. Alternatively email us to set up a meeting: email@example.com