Josh Brightmore - 28th March 2023
In previous discussions with Angela and Mark we’ve explored how Eastern Fostering Services supported them through their initial journey to become foster parents, but, in my latest chat with them we looked at how they fared after all of the initial excitement of their first match with their first foster child.
Angela and Mark have been foster carers for Eastern Fostering Services for a number of years now. Those years have been full of wonder and challenge, but throughout it all, the “family” that they describe to me (made up of Eastern Fostering Services staff and other Eastern Fostering Services foster carers) has helped them navigate through it all.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the training they provide,” explains Mark. “I used to work in social services for a council but the training I receive from Eastern Fostering Services is in a different league.”
“I’ve worked as a counsellor and have had lots and lots of training, but I learned so much new stuff through Eastern Fostering Services, like how the teenage brain works – it was explained to me beautifully as it’s like they’re doing up a huge, big mansion house, and while it’s in the process of being done up, they’re living in a caravan,” says Angela. “Empathy and other key emotions and thought processes are under construction – a work in progress. I also learned lots about neuroplasticity – basically how, in spite of what we’re often told, the brain adapts and people change, even late into the teenage years and well beyond.”
But it’s not just the training that helped. Things weren’t always easy and the ongoing support from the team at Eastern Fostering Services made such a difference, who were once immediately able to offer 10 days respite care to the couple to allow them to deal with other issues in their lives.
“All the way through it was just a matter of getting on the phone – day or night – and they were there to help in practical and meaningful ways,” says Mark.
“And it’s so important that they’re always there, which isn’t what we always hear from other acquaintances who have fostered via other agencies,” adds Angela. “It means there’s always an intermediary between you and your foster child: someone to diffuse the tension and ensure that when any conflict or difficulty arises it doesn’t damage the relationship you have with your foster child. You can just get on and be a parent and someone is there to help explain the boundaries to the child you’re caring for.”
“At Eastern Fostering Services it’s crystal clear that their first priority is the child and the child’s welfare, and that’s why they look after the carers so well, as that’s essential in enabling the carers to then look after the child,” Mark says. “And that care is there from the start in terms of the matching process – it’s never a case of ‘hey, we’ve got a vacancy, let’s fill it.’”
And, according to Angela: “beyond that care from the Eastern Fostering Services staff, the social and other events with other foster carers are so incredibly useful, there is always someone who has a similar story, people you can bond with, people you can advise and people you can receive advice from, just like one big family really.”
*names have been changes and gender identity concealed.