Being a Couple Foster Carer with Sunbeam
At Sunbeam Fostering Agency we recruit foster carers from a wide range of background, race, religion and sexual orientation. We encourage people from all backgrounds including couples, to become foster carers and aim to dispel any misconceptions surrounding fostering.
Sunbeam profiles one of our couple foster carers and how their honest experience can inspire others to foster. M and T live in London and are foster carers with Sunbeam Fostering Agency.
What is it like being a foster carer?
It has it’s challenges, you always seem to be doing something, when you are not with the kids there are report logs, training and visits from, or to, other professional care workers, but the rewards from giving children in your care love and life experiences they have not had before is amazing.
What made you decide to become foster carer?
My wife was a child minder and we noticed the short term value she brought to these children’s lives; doing this full time 24/7 would create the same values but long term to children in our care. I was coming up for retirement with the Police and this would give me more time to be involved and supplement my service pension.
What strengths have helped you as foster carer?
My wife has a great understanding of children and their needs, but I was just a normal “fun” dad to my own kids. Being united as a couple in our outlook helps as any child will seek to exploit differences of parental opinion! We both have a heart for loving and caring for children around us.
What would you recommend to people interested in becoming foster carers?
Seek out people who are foster carers and go to a fostering open evening. ASK questions, and don’t think “I can’t ask that”. Talk to your close network of friends as you will need to call on them at times to support you physically and emotionally.
How long have you been foster carers?
We became foster carers in September 2012, with our first placement of a family of four girls coming in October of that year.
What has been your experience of fostering?
Sunbeam has been great in supporting and preparing us for fostering. The first placement was more than we had planned for, and four children aged seven and under, along with our own two, aged seven and four was quite a handful! Whilst this presented logistical problems (transport for 8 anyone?), as well the demand for caring for each of their needs, there were some really rewarding moments. Our second placement was again for a young family of four children who were nothing but a joy to care for and we now have a young sibling pair who have been with us since June 2013 and who we have just been accepted to care for long term.
How has the experience enriched/changed your life?
The elder of our present children, within 10 minutes of arriving at our home, asked “Can I stay here with you?”, and seeing a seven year old who had become cynical and grown up beyond her years due to her early life experiences, becoming a child again when she played on a beach for the first time in her life, are two milestones, but there are also everyday moments which warm our hearts.
On retiring from the police I had expected to find another full time job, but my pension and the fostering allowance has enabled both my wife and I to become full time carers, which we love. It enables us to “work” together but also to have space to enjoy some “Me” time whilst the other one looks after the children.
How have you coped financially and emotionally?
I have already mentioned how the finances have helped, emotionally we have been supported by Sunbeam, friends and family. The toughest time was around an unfounded allegation made against our son and the need to put in additional safe guards which prevent the foster children feeling a true part of our family. We have always felt that any advice or suggestions have always been made with our best interests at heart.
How has your work/life balance been?
Having two young children of our own, fostering has enabled both of us to spend more time with all of the children and as we are now both about all of the time, some freedom to pursue individual pastimes.
How has Sunbeam supported you?
Sunbeam has been great. It’s provided training and support from managers at the centres, through our own social worker and at carers support groups. Our concerns and frustrations have been listened to and tangible support has been offered. They are great at acknowledging the work of their foster carers throughout the year and at the annual awards dinner and dance.
What would you recommend to others considering becoming a foster carer?
As mentioned earlier speak to other foster carers and ask all of the questions you may have. Identify your friends and family support network. Be clear as to what you feel you can manage, example the age and number of children you can properly care for.
Any good experiences you would like to share?
Our present charges have been with us for nearly a year and it is always a concern when their time with you comes to an end. We are really happy that the opportunity for us to care for these two children for the rest of their adolescence and into adulthood has been afforded to us. We intend to make it a “Happy ever after” story.