Pictured above: Julie and Mick receiving an award from FFC Director Granville Orange for their long-standing service to fostering
Mick and I started fostering nearly 14 years ago. I had always wanted to foster, but as our own kids came along – we have 2 boys and 2 girls - the possibility got further and further away. But life has a funny way of changing and making possibilities become reality!
In 2002 my brother and his wife, who were already foster carers, put us forward as part of their support network. One day their social worker approached us to provide respite care for the three little lads my brother was fostering at the time. After a successful respite placement the social worker suggested that we would make good foster carers and encouraged us to look into fostering full time. We took a good 6 months researching the whole process, weighing up the pros and cons of fostering and thinking about how it would affect our own children. Having not long ago had three boys live with us we needed to know how our children felt about the possibility of having other children on a more permanent basis. All but one of our children said they were ok with the idea, and whilst our eldest boy wasn’t sure he said he’d be prepared to for us all to give it a try. So in 2003 we started our application, went to panel and were approved as foster carers.
Fostering has been a real eye-opener
Fostering has really opened our eyes to the different kind of upbringing and family life children experience. Until I became a foster carer I thought that the moment a woman first looks into the eyes of her newborn baby a life-long bond of love and total devotion is formed between her and that tiny little person. But no. Sadly that is not always the case and too many children suffer mental or physical abuse or both, neglect or food deprivation, or are tormented or left to fend for themselves. So when they are placed with foster families we have to be ready for the backlash of what has happened to them, as they do not know love, support, fun, happiness, they don't know how it feels to be wanted and cared for, they only know their own painful experience.
A good foster carer never judges but always listens, helps, supports and always looks for the positive angle on a situation, even when the worst kind of behaviour is thrown at them. Coping with bad behaviour from children is part and parcel of being a foster carer. It’s not acceptable behaviour but when you understand what's behind it, that it is often a hurt child's form of self-defence against rejection, it’s easier to accept and move on. You’ve just got to give them space and then start caring for them all over again. Sometimes it may take 6 months or even 2 years before a child trusts you, but when they start to the bond you develop is amazing. Seeing a child smile and laugh properly for the first time is better than winning on a scratch card, and it’s made even more special because you know the hard work you have put in to get there.
Being foster carers has made us better parents
Life as a foster carer is brilliant, we really enjoy it. We always have a busy household - never a dull minute for us! We are either getting ready for a birthday, holiday, weekends with friends, caravanning, riding bikes, clubs; there is always something going on, even if it is a film night in with goodies, we love it! Evening meal times are the best, sat round the table chatting away about what has gone on at school that day, Mick and I talking about where we have been and what we have done, just everyone bonding, it’s really great. Being foster carers has made me and Mick better parents and we have learned to look at situations from all angles.
If you feel you could be a foster carer, think you could cope with some challenging behaviour and offer a youngster a loving home anyway, then definitely contact Family Fostercare. This agency is very supportive, caring and fun. We have visits from our social worker monthly and we have a monthly support group where all the foster carers from our region get together and talk about our placements, share tips and advice and learn from each other about how to deal with different situations, and exchange phone numbers so we all support each other.
When they know you care, that's all that matters
Mick and I have fostered approximately 25 children over our 14 years and they have come from various cultures, religions and backgrounds. Some have had ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s or physical disabilities or impairments. Some have suffered physical and emotional abuse or neglect. Most of them have been extremely challenging, but so lovely and rewarding too. Once you get to know the youngsters you find they all have something special – they might have a brilliant sense of humour or be very intelligent for example - sometimes you just need to find what makes them tick. They love their cuddles and chats as they know you care and that is all that matters at the end of the day. Just remember no two placements will ever be the same, but they will always be fun!