Fostering is something I wanted to do for a long time, but I wanted to make sure I was at the right point in my life with my house sorted and a good stable job.
I was probably in my mid 30s when I first started considering it.
But how would I know if it would be right for me? I’m on my own so would I even be able to manage it by myself?
I had lots of questions going round in my head. I wanted to try it out first. Would that even be possible?
I’ve got nieces and nephews, so I had experience of looking after children. But obviously I don’t have them all the time. I could always hand them back at the end of the day and put my feet up. But it would be different looking after children 24/7.
I had an idea in my mind that I wanted to give a home to older children, between five and 10 year olds. I knew these children would have had a difficult start in life already. They would probably have their own baggage and issues to deal with.
These children would have a history, which might not be that great, especially if they’d moved around quite a lot in foster homes beforehand.
There was definitely a lot to take on board. So I felt like I needed some support in the interim.
I realised I didn’t know that much about it. I had always thought if you foster you’ve got the backing and support from a fostering/adoption agency.
But I thought once you adopted children you had no support network from an agency, it would only be from your family. I just didn’t realise until I contacted Caritas Care that the support network would be there throughout the process, and even after the children came to live with me.
So I decided to go for it and take the plunge into fostering.
My fostering experience
After I’d been approved, one of the foster children’s carers was going away and wasn’t taking the foster child with them, so I had a little girl for ten days initially. That was a great way for me to find my feet as a foster parent for the first time.
I then had about a year’s break before my two came along.
They are a brother and sister and they were 8 and 10 when I first fostered them (they’re 11 and 13 now). They’ve now lived with me for just over three years.
We started off by having a four-week introduction. We decided it would be best to go down that route because Caritas Care knew I wanted to adopt eventually.
We saw a lot of each other before they moved in. It started off with short visits where I’d travel to see the children and we’d spend a day together. Then I would come back a different time and see them get ready to go to school, or I’d go after school to see them for homework time in the evening until bed time. Then after we’d built up a bit of time together, they came to stay to me for a weekend. I think it was two weekends before they actually moved in.
When they first moved in, I took them to my Dad’s house and one of my niece and nephews were there. They all just bonded together. Since then their bond has become so close it’s unbelievable, and it’s still the same now with them. They have just slotted in to the family perfectly.
When they first moved in, they did ask when they would see their Mum again.
So they were a bit unsettled to start with but the longer they stayed the more settled they felt.
Coincidentally, they ended up at the same school as my niece and nephew, the boy was in the same class as my niece and it’s a small school so there’s only one class per year.
The teachers embraced everything and they spoke to both the children when they arrived. But he didn’t enjoy it as much as she did.
The girl is much more sociable than her brother and gets on with other children, but he is totally opposite. He is the younger one. He wanted to play with my nephew but my nephew is a few years older than he is. So he kind of mirrored how my nephew behaved, which sometimes caused conflict with his peers. He used to get upset a lot and cry so he was an easy target.
His sister was totally opposite and made loads of friends as she loved school.
But by the time he was in Year Six he was loving it too. He became one of the in crowd so it kind of turned around, which put him in a positive light for when he was going to High School. He became more confident in himself. He’s got a good circle of friends at school now and there’s no problems. He’s not getting upset any more and he loves going to school. He even loves doing his homework, he goes to the library on his own back. He just wants to please and do well.
His sister missed quite a bit of school because of her background with her Mum, certain blocks were missing so she found it harder to grasp some things. But she’s improved a lot now.
Their primary school was brilliant and gave them both one to one attention. She was a lot weaker than he was. She’s excelled now in Maths, she is still struggling but she’s loving it.
We’re a big close knit family, there’s loads of us. We do family days out together, and birthdays.
When my children first moved in we had a big welcome party for them and they loved it. The whole family has welcomed them with open arms.
They get out and about a lot. I take them out and about a lot at weekends. They go to Scouts, Guides and Pathfinder Club through church, so they’re quite busy outside school.
They used to call me Auntie until about a year and a half after they moved in. But then the girl started calling me Mum. It was her choice.
She started doing certain things, like she sent me a postcard from a school trip and she put Mum on it. She also bought a bangle and put Best Mum on it. I said ‘if you want to call me Mum that’s fine, it’s not a problem’. I’ll be Mom, as in MOM, and since then they’ve always called me Mom.
I didn’t have any fears about whether I would be able to form a bond with them.
Initially, I think it’s the way Caritas Care did everything that made a difference.
We had to adjust when they moved in but because we had spent four weeks being together, not at my house or at the foster carer’s house, just doing things together.
When I first saw a picture of them I thought they were lovely. I also saw a video and I warmed to them straight away. At school, they were kind of prepped as well, so they were quite happy about things.
The last foster care place they were in was like an extended family, but they spent most of the time at home, they didn’t go out. It was the total opposite of staying with me as we’re always doing lots of different things and never keeping still.
They’d been with just one foster family before me, and they’d had two breaks in between when the foster carer went away when they had to go to another foster carer.
Since I started with fostering, I’m now going through the adoption process. It’s going through the court stages at the moment, the paperwork is with my social worker.
Then it’s going to court, so it shouldn’t take that long, unless their Mum is going to contest it which might prolong things a bit longer.
I’ve had so much support along the way from Caritas Care. They’ve been really good. Both children have had sessions with a therapy worker from Caritas, and because it’s not a big agency I’ve got to know all the staff.
They do fun days with the children so they get to know all the other social workers and the other children which is pretty good.
Caritas Care have got an educational worker who liaises with schools, so if we’ve got any issues we can speak to her regarding school and the children, which is really good. There’s a nice small group of social workers, which I find a lot more personal.
If you’ve started thinking about adoption, then it’s something you know you want to do.
I would say go for it. It’s wonderful, it’s enjoyable and it’s life-changing.
It’s not all roses, obviously the children all come from different backgrounds, and there can be issues.
But any issues can be talked through and dealt with. Caritas Care is brilliant at supporting you and the children. They also offer a service which I haven’t used but I think it’s once a year if you ever want a break from the children – where another foster carer within the Caritas Care team will look after your children while you have a week break or two weeks break.
If you haven’t got a big family network, sometimes that maybe be something you need to do if it’s all new to you.
I was quite fortunate that my children had one move before they came to live with me so they weren’t constantly worried about whether they were going to move again.
If they’ve moved around a lot, you’ve got to gain that trust. They’re going to be worried if they’re moving again if it’s short term.
Placements do affect children and it’s hard not to spoil them because then they will expect that all the time.
My advice to anyone thinking about fostering would be just go for it.
Just treat foster children like any other children, a niece or a nephew, or a cousin. If you love them they’ll love you back. If you show them respect, they’ll show you respect back.
Just show children love, no matter what their history or background, they just need a lot of love.