If I (Jane) had one piece of advice for you, I’d say look for blessings in disguise.
I’d been a teaching assistant for 12 years before being told I was being made redundant. It was a job I loved and I was gutted, but after getting my head round the idea, I saw the silver lining to it all – I could finally do something I’d always wanted to… become a foster carer.
In a way, being made redundant worked really well for me in the long run – it forced the issue. I realised I now had the time to focus on becoming a foster carer alongside my husband Martin. That’s how we came to decide the time was right for us.
I distinctly remember when we started the process because the Olympics were in London – we moved house in the May of 2012 and by August, I can vividly remember stripping wallpaper in the lounge while a social worker from Caritas Care came out to meet us. We were stepping around and over wallpaper and the house was in total uproar, but they were still happy with us!
We went through the fostering assessment process and I also started working part time for Caritas Care in the unit for adults with learning difficulties, up until we were ready for our first placement.
He arrived in August 2013, so it took around a year from having that initial thought to fostering becoming a reality for us.
He arrived in an emergency, in that he needed placing that day. I was at work in the morning and literally got a phone call to say there was a little boy from Blackpool who needed placing!
He stayed with us for six months before he moved back home, and we were involved in that transition, which was lovely.
All he ever wanted was to go home to mum, which all children do.
The team from Caritas Care have been there for us every step of the way, from the initial phone call right up to present day.
After their visit to us, we knew we weren’t going to go with anyone else. They’ve been a brilliant support to us from day one. I can ring up anytime and because it’s not a huge faceless agency, I know all the social workers and all the support staff.
With our younger placements, Caritas Care helped us find nurseries – especially for our special needs placement who needed so much more support. They’ve helped out with so many elements of our fostering journey, they are so supportive.
Thinking and talking about our second placement still makes me cry.
We looked after a little boy with severely complex special needs. He came to me and Martin at three years old, non-verbal and in nappies.
We looked after him for two years, but when I was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had to go into hospital for major surgery, it became apparent there was no way we could continue to care for him because of his needs.
That’s still so raw. Everybody who met him fell in love with him.
He was the most difficult child to live with – you couldn’t leave him for a second. He had no sense of danger whatsoever and did whatever he wanted, so you had to be constantly on alert with him. But even so, we still miss him terribly.
There’s certain children that come into your life and they have that ‘wow’ impact on you – he was the one.
He moved to a foster carer we knew which helped us to cope, because we knew he was in a good place and getting the level of care he needed.
Our second placement’s arrival coincided with me losing my mother-in-law and a month later, Martin suffered a heart attack.
So to say our fostering journey has been eventful is definitely putting it lightly. It’s never been straight forward but we’ve got each other through it… somehow! And now we’ve come out the other side.
Having the decision taken out of my hands and knowing I wouldn’t be working at school anymore – which I loved – I knew I’d have to do something else that had the same impact on me.
Rather than just getting ‘a job’ anywhere, this was our chance to make a real difference. I can’t remember how the discussion started, it just seemed like the natural thing for us to do. Our three children were growing up, so to us it seemed like why not?
Looking at my career choices, it’s obvious where my passion lies – working with and caring for children. I’ve worked in a playgroup, a nursery and a primary school so it was only really ever going in one direction.
When I wasn’t working at the school, I was working with adults who had learning difficulties, so I’ve been caring for people at every stage of her career.
It’s second nature to me.
With our fostering placements, we’ve really been able to see the difference we’re making to a child’s life.
The changes in the children have been incredible. When one of our foster children was leaving us, he told us he didn’t know how it felt to cry. He told us his throat was tightening up and didn’t understand why – he was 10 and didn’t know how it felt to be upset.
The two little sisters we looked after were a test for us as they were used to getting their own way all the time from their grandma.
They were little divas when they arrived! So to see the transformation in them was really good, you know you’ve done something special. We built up a good relationship with their adoptive parents and they keep me updated – it’s so nice to hear how they’re getting on now. I knew they were going to land on their feet.
I wouldn’t change anything about our experience for the world. I know we’ve had ups and downs but it’s been such a learning curve. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the fostering I’ve done.
People say it’s so rewarding and you get so much back from fostering and it’s true, you do. It’s nice to be in a position to offer a child some stability, security and hopefully happiness.
Speaking to the social workers and other foster carers is high on our recommendation list for future foster carers.
They’re going to be completely honest with you. They’re not going to sugar coat it, they will guide you through everything. They will tell you the truth, especially those from Caritas Care – my experience with them has been nothing but honesty from day one.
Ask questions – that’s the only way you’ll find out before taking on a child. You need to know your decision is the right one for you and your family.