James Roderick - 19th August 2022
When I last met with Angela and Mark they had just begun fostering their second child and they’re expecting to become grandparents (again) any day now. Their first fostering placement lasted many years, but, when we spoke, they took me back to the process of being approved as foster carers over eight years ago.
“It took us two years from our first assessment to being approved as foster carers,” Mark explains, “but that was because at that time in our lives we had so much going on that we wanted to take it slow”. They were supported by Eastern Fostering Services in going at a speed that was right for them: “after all, it’s important for the child that the foster carers are in the right space to be there for them,” adds Angela.
They both feel it is really important that foster carers don’t feel pressured into rushing it, but, on the other hand, if you’re all set and ready to go it can be done in as little as six months. Either way you’ll be supported by the team at Eastern Fostering Services all the way through to “Panel”.
“The whole family had to take part in our assessment to become foster carers,” says Angela, “They were all interviewed to ensure that we, as prospective carers, would have the support network we’d need.”
They told me that “no stone was left unturned”, but that it was actually quite a therapeutic process – the kind of therapy others might have to pay hundreds or thousands of pounds for!
As Mark says: “Nobody has the perfect background, yet sometimes people worry that something about them will be somehow unacceptable: a previous broken marriage or depression for example.” “Full honesty is definitely the best policy, you won’t be rejected for an imperfect past; it’s all life experience and actually helps create more empathy, something that’s essential in foster caring,” explains Angela.
They both feel that while their own professional backgrounds – in caring and counselling – have helped it’s really not essential to have that kind of background as “a child needs a normal family, not a team of professionals.”
When I ask them what it is then that makes a good foster carer they tell me that the key ingredients are kindness, compassion, being non-judgemental, and – very importantly – patience. They also add that the ability to set boundaries, discipline and structure are absolutely essential – basically all the same things that make a good parent.
In the next in our series on Angela and Mark’s journey we’ll hear more about going to Panel and getting matched with their first placement in Beyond Panel: The Match.
View the full series of Angela and Mark’s story here