Being a Female Foster Carer with Sunbeam
At Sunbeam Fostering Agency we recruit foster carers from a wide range of backgrounds, races, religions and sexual orientations. We encourage people from all backgrounds including females married or unmarried, to become foster carers and aim to dispel any misconceptions surrounding fostering.
Sunbeam profiles one of our foster carers and how her honest experiences can inspire others to foster. A. S. lives in London with her husband and is a female Foster Carer with Sunbeam Fostering Agency.
What is it like being a foster carer?
Being a foster carer opens you up to challenges that you very rarely experience in your role as a maternal parent. I have found during my caring experience that you take note of changes, behaviours and actions that you give oversight to in your own birth children. Meaning that if you were asked to recall an incident whether good or bad with your own children, you forget dates and situations, but because of the recording process and information transfer, you tend to remember a lot more about what your foster children did. I have often recalled incidents with my placements and names and places that I struggle to remember with my own children. You have a higher tolerance for situations and your patience is enhanced. With my own birth children, “no” was “NO”.
What made you decide to become a foster carer?
The decision to become a foster carer was made easy for me as my during entire working career, I have worked with children. I taught in a secondary school, on and off, for over 13 years and the jobs in between were in a care roles. After 5 years in residential, I knew inviting children to live in my own home was the next step forward.
What strengths have helped you as a foster carer?
An understanding of children and their needs was my greatest strength. That being said, I don’t think you ever have enough knowledge about children’s behaviours as society changes their behaviour, and our concepts almost daily. Working with children is always a challenge even if they are your own birth children. The ability to accept the changes and understand society’s concepts always helps me. The fact that I try to relate to them even at 50 Plus years old, is my asset. My favourite word in my walk as a carer has been and will always remain “EMPATHY”.
What would you recommend to people interested in becoming foster carers?
If I was asked to give a recommendation to a new carer or offer a word of advice, I believe my opening statement would be ‘’If you have little tolerance for children, DON’T do it”. You have to love children to be a foster carer; you have to be able to appreciate the bad with the good. We learn so much from young people that if you cannot be appreciative of their challenges we simply can’t help them. There is no financial gain to be made from the work you will do but, to have a child see you years later and tell you that you made a difference in their life is one of the biggest gains you will have. I ran into a young girl about 5 years ago that I worked with. She was a severe self harmer and had very low self esteem. I was her key worker and her nick name for me was “chocolate fingers’’. She had just returned from Cambodia where she had dedicated her life to helping the children out there who had been subjected to violence. She thanked me for loving her and believing in her. That was my reward.
How long have you been a foster carer?
I have been a registered foster carer now for maybe 7-8 years. I can’t remember the dates exactly. I guess that is a good thing because I stopped checking. I love my job so much that I never really check anything.
What has been your experience of fostering?
You want difference. You want change. You want rewards. That’s fostering!
How has the experience enriched/changed your life?
I thank God every day for the opportunity that he afforded me to Foster. I have become stronger and more motivated. I become excited at the referral of a new placement and seeing my own birth family enjoy those challenges with me is so amazing. My husband loves the children and my oldest daughter also wishes to become a carer soon. I love birthdays and Christmas as I sit back and see each child whether my own birth children, current placements or former placements sit and eat, and laugh together. I have adopted 3 children through my role and often dinner times on a Sunday can consists of 15-16 plates on a table. Really enriched by all my children!
How have you coped financially and emotionally?
Thanks to Sunbeam there is a generous financial package available to their carers and there is always an opportunity to speak with your social worker about saving plans. I have to be grateful that there have been few times that I have been without a placement and they are normally very fast in replacing a child if a contract has ended. Emotionally there is so much support and I praise my social worker to the maximum for the support she has given to me. I appreciate that at least half of my supervision time is merely just allocated to me and believe me, I can talk! I thank her for the ever listening ear, and mostly for acknowledging my needs!!!! Emotionally I am secure!
How has your work/life balance been?
My work and life are combined. I am none without the other. I don’t have to choose or plan different for each one as in my eyes as they are both one.
How has Sunbeam supported you?
I am fully supported by the agency I work for. I love that I can call Sunbeam and the operator says hello “A……..” they have over 300 carers and yet for them to recognise my voice enlightens my heart. At meetings I am always greeted by name and even having to do this piece of exercise shows how much they appreciate me. I am glad that you have asked me to do this piece of work as my theory is any opportunity to invite new carers is a reward. Many of my friends, who were once carers despite not being involved any more, find it quite difficult not to ask about what is happening in the care world now. There are so many children in London who could benefit from a good stable home and if you have the opportunity to become a carer you will never look back.