Josh Brightmore - 3rd February 2023
“It’s only now that they’ve gone that we’re re-discovering all these little notes from them. It’s so heart-warming”.
Talking to Angela and Mark about their first foster-child – Alex* – I’m struck by the warmth they still have for them, and while it wasn’t always a bed of roses, they both seem to be incredibly enriched by the experience – both the good and the bad.
I had expected Angela and Mark to tell me that the process of finally being approved as foster carers – by a panel including a previously fostered person, foster carers, local authority staff and staff from Eastern Fostering Services – was at least a little bit nerve-wracking. But Angela assures me that this wasn’t the case at all.
“They all ask questions, but, by then you’ve done all the work [through the Eastern Fostering Services ‘Skills for Fostering’ course], so there’s nothing to be scared about. And you only go to panel if your assigned social worker is there to recommend you as foster parents, and speak up for you.”
Having passed panel, Angela and Mark were matched with a child – Alex – within three days, but, of course, the work to get that match had been going on long before then: “They put lots and lots of work into matching the right children with the right carers,” explains Mark.
Like so many children in need of the stability of a foster home, Alex had a troubled past and in some ways their development had been hindered by neglect.
“It was important to allow Alex to develop at their own pace,” says Angela, “For example they used to play with toys a lot, often toys that were meant for much younger children, but this was because they hadn’t had many toys at that age: it was their way of catching up.”
“It certainly wasn’t always easy,” adds Mark, “foster children are different to your own children because of all the baggage they bring, and for Alex, their coping strategies included hyper-vigilance and acting out, but, as time went on, they stopped hitting and stealing.”
“You’re prepared for it all though, the Team at Eastern Fostering Services give you the worst case scenarios beforehand and that helps you through it, both for your own wellbeing and that of the child,” Angela explains.
“You do need to be aware that your foster-child’s behaviour, and your situation as a result of that affect everyone around you – not just your family, but, your friends, your neighbours, and people in the wider community. Sometimes you are blamed for your child’s behaviour, like when they steal from shops, but what was more amazing was the support you get from all sorts of places, including the unexpected,” says Angela.
“The whole community rallied round us, but, either way, it shows the importance of identifying a good support network in advance,” adds Mark.
“Alex has now grown up and moved on, but It’s only now that they’ve gone that we’re re-discovering all these little notes from them. It’s so heart-warming,” says Mark.
“Yes, it fills us with a real sense of achievement, and we’re so happy that we still see Alex – they will always be part of our family,” Angela adds.
*names have been changes and gender identity concealed.