Meet Anne, an experienced foster carer
Deciding to be a foster carer seven years ago turned out to be more work than I expected but on the other hand, the most rewarding thing I have done other than get married and have my own children. Fostering is for the children and I do it for the right reasons, to keep them safe for themselves and their families. It’s often hard to let go but it’s great seeing a family coming together and that makes giving them back much easier.
There is a price to pay as a fostering family, you have to work out how to give everyone enough time and attention so we all feel part of the family all of the time.
Not only me but my kids have benefited from being part of fostering. Through the difficult times, especially when their things got ‘borrowed’ by foster children, my kids were helped by the thought that they will never have to leave their family and that there is someone out there in a worse position than they are. There were times though when they were glad when certain children were moving on!
Even when I looked after children who had a really hard time from their parents, I know that most often the best place for children is to be with their own families. Not all the parents have been abusive, one child’s parents had died and a couple had to have serious operations but most children had been hurt in one way or another, mainly because their parents could not cope with looking after them.
Every child I looked after had experienced loss and grief and all of them had mixed emotions about not living with their parents. I know social workers try very hard to keep families together and the ones I worked with so far feel frustrated and sometimes even angry about the lack of choices and support they have to give to families……it all seems to come down to money.
All I know is the children I’ve fostered have only needed someone they can trust and a warm bed and good food to start feeling better. The next step has almost always been to make sure they have contact with their family which can bring it’s own problems, a big thing about being a foster carer means you need to help children keep in contact with their family.
Some, but not many children have been relieved to be in foster care but most want more than anything to be back with their families, even if a parent or relative has abused them. I haven’t met a foster child who wasn’t confused and angry about being put in foster care and when you talk to them they are either angry at themselves believing they are to blame, or angry at their parents for letting them down.
I see a big part of a foster carer’s job is to help a foster child to understand why they feel like they do and that they should feel ok about it. How can children and older kids cope with life without help? Life has dealt them a rotten hand sometimes and they need help to learn to cope. Sometimes they scream and yell, or run away, or hurt themselves, or hurt other people.
Recently I have been taking Parent and Child Foster care placements which offer a home to a baby or young child together with its parent. This is usually for a period for between 12-24 weeks.
It may be that a parent has not had a positive family life and postive input from a foster carer can provide the help a young parent needs with reassurance, guidance and support during a period of considerable changes.
As a foster carer, I help them to develop their own parenting skills whilst ensuring the child was in a safe, secure and nurturing environment. It is a very interesting area of work, especially taking part in assessments and encourage young mothers without taking over their parental responsibilities.
There is a growing need for more foster carers in the UK who are interested in looking after young, most often teenage mothers and their babies. I looked after a young mum, lets call her Tracy. Tracey left school at 15.
After a several periods in children homes she was back living with her mother but they continually argued. There was a lot of alcohol being drunk in the family which hardly helped and Tracy soon became pregnant.
When she came to me she said; ‘I planned it, I wanted to have my own baby but when you’re young, you don’t realise what you’re getting yourself into – like the responsibility, and it is a big responsibility. You just think about having this nice baby and showing it off.’
Tracy was not coping and it was decided that she and her unborn babt were at risk so her local social services agreed it was best to place Tracy in a foster home. With no qualifications and an unstable home-life, Julie would have faced an uphill battle trying to provide a secure and loving home for her baby. The statistics show that babies born to teenage mothers often end up in care.
‘At first they wanted to put me into a hotel-place, the local mother and baby hostel. I went there and it was really rough. I hated the look of it but I had been in a foster home before and I quite liked it, so when they asked me if I would like to be placed with a family I said yes.’
Tracy was five months pregnant when she moved to foster care. She had her baby son, stayed for six months then moved into her own flat and with help, started a hairdresser course at her local college. With the help of a foster carer, mum and baby were given the best start possible.
If you are thinking about fostering remember that children need to really feel part of your life and the things you and your family do. Never lie to them or keep bad secrets and never moan about their family or their social worker – be positive, be honest and always aware that you have the privilege to really make a massive difference for the better in children’s lives!
It is of paramount importance to choose the right fostering agency, there are over seven hundred in the UK. Contact us to apply to foster children.