Dear Future Foster Carer,
It seems crazy to think that this time ten years ago, it was just me (Leanne), my husband Paul and our three birth children.
I was working full time as a care manager and Paul had his own business. We’d always discussed that if the chance to move to a bigger house came about, we would consider fostering as we’d have the space and it was something we’d always wanted to do.
And so, our journey to fostering began in 2008.
It might be ten years this year but it feels so much longer, like it’s always been a part of our family. Fostering was always going to happen for us, it was just a case of when.
When we first mentioned becoming foster carers to our birth children – they were only 4, 5 and 8 years old – they were just excited about the prospect of having other children in the house to play with. They’re very selfless and we believe fostering has only enhanced that.
We initially approached Caritas Care once we knew we were serious about fostering and had a visit soon after. All the pros and cons of fostering were explained to us to make sure we knew what we were signing up for and the impact it could have on our family… we still felt ready to start!
Our social worker from Caritas Care started the procedure for us, and it was around seven months before we were taken to panel.
I remember it so vividly, it was the 18th of December 2008. We were approved for three children up to the age of 10, which is what we wanted. We chose to start with younger children so we could get a grasp of how everything worked before we threw ourselves into caring for more challenging children.
Our very first placement arrived just over a week later, in the form of a beautiful nine-month-old baby boy. We picked him up from Blackburn Hospital on 31st December that year – what a way to bring in the New Year!
That placement lasted for eight months before the child and his sibling were bridged over to grandparents and altogether, we’ve been lucky enough to have nine placements over the past decade. Caritas Care have supported us every step of the way.
They were so ‘on it’ straight away – they came to visit me within the week and they didn’t try to persuade me. I just felt like they were so open about the procedure, they weren’t hiding anything from me or trying to sell themselves.
They were absolutely fabulous from day one – we had all the information to think over together and there was no pressure to make a decision. We didn’t get any pestering phone calls back, they just left us to make our own minds up and here we are, ten years later!
This valuable support has never been more evident and important than with our current placement – two brothers, both with complex needs.
They’ve been with us for the past three years and with them staying long term with very complex needs, we’ve had to lean on Caritas Care quite a bit. They have completely different needs to each other and it’s been quite a shock for us.
We’ve needed a lot of support and training which has worked, they’re still here with us and we feel like they’ve integrated into our family. It’s been great to develop our own skills and knowledge when it comes to children with disabilities.
Welcoming a child into your family will always seem strange at first, but as we’ll tell anyone, the benefits of being a foster carer outweigh any challenges.
Seeing them grow in confidence and feel like part of the family is brilliant. We have to acknowledge it’s not just us doing this job – our children are doing it too. I might be biased but I feel being a foster family has helped my own children to become so selfless, very giving and caring.
Having to share their parents hasn’t been a negative experience for them – it’s been quite positive in that they understand other children need that time, and in some cases have never had that time, as part of a family.
Having to split our parenting time between birth children and foster children has admittedly been a challenge for us, and it’s often left us worried about whether we’re doing the right thing.
There have been times when I’ve wondered if our children are missing out too much but then when we sit them down and talk to them, they reassure us they’re fine with it. Sometimes as a parent, I think we beat ourselves up and it turns out the children are absolutely fine.
Particularly when you get a new placement, a lot of your time is taken up as you settle them in. They are very scared and there’s sleepless nights – it can take about three months. We always prepare the children in advance and they know the procedure now.
If you’re thinking about becoming a foster carer, we’re both real advocates of speaking to other foster carers to get a clear idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
The last thing you want to do is go into this thinking it’s just like putting a plaster on a child’s knee and making them feel better. It goes so much deeper than that. There’s lots of meetings, liaising with birth families and you’ve got to be open to travelling quite lengthy distances.
It’s probably the hardest job in the world, but it’s definitely the most rewarding. I’d say just make sure the children you’re looking at fostering are a good match age wise for your family.
I think people can come into foster caring with a view that older children are daunting but I say, they deserve a chance. Bringing a little baby into your family will have a big impact, especially if you have young children yourself, so I think getting the age match right is crucial.
If our story has inspired you and you’re feeling ready to find out more about fostering with Caritas Care, download their free information pack available at http://caritascare-ifoster.org.uk/ or give them a call on 0800 652 6955.
Good luck and best wishes,
Leanne and Paul