LGBT WEEK: Words from one of our foster carers
Day 3 of LGBT Adoption & Fostering Week
Supporting LGBT Adoption & Fostering Week
Some great words from one of our foster carers, it is great to hear such positivity and about their fostering experience!
You too could be proud to foster!
Do you want a life changing experience? Make a positive change to a child’s life? Then fostering could be for you. Contact us for more information, ask any questions you have, learn more about the fostering process.
What made you want to be a Foster Carer?
My parents fostered when I was little so I was used to lots of foster brothers and sisters coming and going. When my sister got married, she invited two of the children we had fostered for the longest period of time and were still in touch with. One night before the wedding I was talking to my foster brother, who had a particularly bad childhood before coming to us. He told me about a conversation he had with his councillor recently; about what a lovely family we were and how good my Dad had been to him. He said he felt that if he had got to us just that little bit sooner his life would have turned out differently and things would have worked out better for him. The councillor told him he was looking at things from the wrong perspective. Maybe he had actually come to us just in time and that actually things could be a lot worse. From then on he called us his ‘just-in-time’ family. This conversation made me realise I wanted to be a ‘just-in-time’ family for other children and I enquired about fostering shortly afterwards.
How long have you been a Foster Carer?
I was approved as a foster carer in April 2013. I had my first placement on 1st October 2013 and since then I’ve gone on to foster 15 children. The youngest was five and a half months and the oldest was 14. They’ve been with me from anywhere between 2 nights and 19 months!
In 2015 I met my partner and we have been together ever since. Initially it was a long distance relationship as she lived in Glasgow but after a year of being together she moved down to Coventry and registered to be a Foster Carer alongside me.
What has been your experience of Fostering?
Overall, I can honestly say that it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some days where I’ve come back from dropping children off at ‘contact’ or a conference meeting and burst into tears. Our most recent placement has pushed us to the very edge and at times we’ve honestly felt we shouldn’t be doing this anymore. Fostering is a role that takes you to the extreme and it can get pretty intense at times. However, I love being a foster carer – it’s more than just being a parent to children. It’s about providing them with a safe, reassuring home during a very traumatic period in their life. It often takes time and a huge amount of energy but seeing little changes in children makes it all worthwhile. It’s the most challenging role I’ve had that involved working with children – there really is no other job like it!
Has your sexuality ever been an issue for you as a Foster Carer?
I’ve never been the sort of person to allow my sexuality to prevent me from doing something. That being said I was surprised by how much of a non-issue it actually was. I’m used to correcting people and the momentary pause each time I reveal my sexual orientation. But every professional I have worked with (Sunbeam staff, Form F assessors, LA Social Workers, Children’s Guardians etc.) hasn’t ‘batted an eyelid’. I guess it’s because all of these people work with such a varied spectrum of society that being gay is no longer an issue for them. With our current placement being a same sex couple was actually a benefit as the child had been living with her Mum and Grandmother so it was what they were used to. Some children haven’t lived with men before or their abusers have been women so same sex couples can really help.
That being said, as in any walk in life, there are some individuals (including foster children’s families) who may display homophobic behaviour. What’s important to remember is that this will not be tolerated and there is plenty of support out there if this happens.
I am in a committed, long term relationship with my partner and we are very open about our situation with our foster children. This is of course age appropriate and can range from simply saying we love each other to more in-depth conversations about sexuality, legislation, religion etc. We tend to find that if we don’t show any shame/remorse/embarrassment about our relationship then the children follow our lead on this.
How has the experience enriched your life?
I can’t begin to explain how happy I am fostering – I really wish I had done it years ago. I enjoy working with all the different professionals and seeing the difference a close, well informed team can make to a child’s life. I really feel like I have made a difference to children’s lives and I hope I can do this for other children in the future. It’s also brought me a lot closer to my Mum, who was a foster carer herself and can empathise with a lot of the things I go through. Although it is a very different system to the one she worked in 20 years ago, the principles are the same. Care and love a child during one of the most traumatic phases of their lives.
From my partner’s point of view, she had never even considered Fostering before meeting me! Now neither of us can imagine doing anything different. We have both taken part in consultations regarding Fostering legislation and she is especially passionate about children’s rights and standing up for them.
How have you coped emotionally and financially?
Emotionally it’s been a massive rollercoaster. There are some days I can honestly say I’ve experienced every emotion a human being can. I’ve laughed, cried, felt my blood boil and experienced overwhelming joy and utter despair. But ultimately it has all been worth it, I wouldn’t still be Fostering if it wasn’t. I’ve watched children flourish in a safe, warm environment, I’ve heard first words being spoken, taught children to swim and been there for the first day of school. We’ve laughed hysterically together over silly little things and built dens underneath the dining room table. While they are with us, the children we care for are experiencing a childhood free from fear and uncertainty and I’ll go through any emotional rollercoaster necessary to ensure that continues.
Financially it can sometimes be a struggle to. There are no guarantees when a placement will be made and I think that’s a very tricky issue for foster carers to manage. It makes it hard to do part-time work in between placements so you need to be sure you plan for this. Furthermore, when children do arrive they will often come to you with just the clothes on their back. They’ll need shoes and clothes that fit, toys and books for them to play with and personal items to help them settle in. Somehow, it all works out!
How has your work/social life balance been?
As a foster carer you’re working 24hours a day, seven days a week until the placement ends. This can prove to be tricky, especially when you factor in meetings, contact session and nursery/pre-school. It’s not unmanageable but you need to be organised. Obviously now my partner is living here I get a lot more time for myself. But it’s important we get time together to so we have three back-up carers who can help look after our foster children. This means that we get a night or two out on our own each month.
What would you recommend to others considering becoming a foster carer?
Everybody is different and so whilst fostering might be a great fit for some people, for others it might not work out. The best advice I can give is to get in touch and talk to someone – and be sure to ask lots of questions! As part of the registration process there is a three day ‘Skills to Foster course’ to undertake which gives you a better idea of what to expect and answers all your questions. I knew by lunchtime on day one that fostering was definitely for me.
I think naturally human nature makes you remember the bad stuff so you learn from it. But as I sit here writing this and consciously thinking about everything I’ve been through in the last four and a half years I realise just what a lovely time we’ve all had. We have fun, make some great memories together and enjoy spending time with each other! Genuinely, I wouldn’t do any other job in the world!