This is not a soft-focus advertisement for foster carers, this is real life
I guess I love a challenge – I cycled through Jordan, trekked in China, and now I am a competitive sports fencer. I love parenting too, with birth daughters who are 22 and 17, and our youngest daughter, adopted from China who is 10. So maybe foster caring was an obvious thing to do. M joined our family eighteen months ago. She was 15, had been living a high risk lifestyle, and had a serious drug habit. Making a big life change was largely her choice, but that’s M! OK, she might not be a ‘starter model’, if such a young person exists, but we figured that if she wanted to come here we would do our best for her. ‘Here’ is the back of beyond, a big old house full of animals, fields with horses and donkeys, a laid back attitude, and boundaries where they are needed to keep everyone safe and happy.
We are a year and a half into foster caring, and into M’s life. There are some great ‘ups’ – M learned to ride, she has a dog and trains her, she has a boyfriend, she is settled in an alternative education placement and doing GCSEs soon. She is a loved member of the family, part of the team, and a joy to have around. Yes, there have been downsides, although mostly not of M’s making – education was a nightmare, I have fought like a tiger to get what is right and best for M. It has been blindingly frustrating to be on the receiving end of poor communication in the care system as a whole. M has, of course, given us a fair few challenges.
This is not, after all, one of those soft-focus advertisements for foster carers, this is real life, with real needs and real issues. But through the challenging bits we all learn more about each other – the building blocks of relationships. We are not backing off because M has embarked on the occasional high risk night-time venture of her own. She is learning that the boundaries are there to keep her safe.
So the days revolve around M going to her education place, in a converted chicken shed! Seeing her boyfriend, walking her dog, family meals round the kitchen table, shared news about everyone’s day. And helping M to plan for the next steps in her life – college, more independence, and taking on some of the ‘grown up stuff’ that we all need to get us by in life.