We profile two foster carers, David and Paddy, who tell us why they find their roles so incredibly rewarding…
David, along with his wife Michelle, has been a foster carer for over 4 years. In that time they have fostered six children, from a newborn baby to a teenager and currently care for four children between the ages of 4 to 14. Initially resistant to the idea of becoming a foster carer due to a demanding job and other commitments, it was the perseverance of David’s wife that eventually led to him changing his mind – and he is so glad he did!
David says; “I have been so surprised since becoming a foster carer. It has been the most amazing thing I have ever done and I feel extremely privileged to be able to make such a positive impact on children, some of whom have had very difficult and traumatic lives.”
When David first began fostering he found there was a steep learning curve. Working with professionals and understanding the language and terminology they use, as well as the processes and procedures, was daunting at first. However, he believes that fostering itself is not difficult, thanks to the training he has received but he says it can be a demanding role. “Giving up your home and free time to who are initially strangers, can be emotionally quite challenging to begin with. There is no rule book and every child is different. However, being able to provide a stable background, to demonstrate kindness and support to a child who may not have received much of this in the past, makes it all worthwhile”. He goes on to say; “It is important to remember that as a male foster carer you can be a really positive role model, especially for older boys, who may not have experienced much of this in the past. Demonstrating good behaviour, kindness and nurturing their hobbies and interests are ways of helping them excel.”
Like everyone at the moment, David and Michelle have had to adjust to doing things differently during the Coronavirus pandemic. Keeping four children occupied and busy has not been easy but they have had some unexpected help. David explains; “We keep chickens and the children have been given two each to care for and look after. It has been brilliant, the children bring in eggs that the chickens have laid, inspecting the colours and textures of the shells and seeing what the egg yolks are like. The chickens have responded well to the attention and I think in return it has been a good distraction for the children and good for their mental health, plus they get lots of exercise running after them!”
If David has any advice for anyone considering being a foster carer, what would it be? “Stop thinking about it and get on with it” he says, “You won’t know how good being a foster carer is, until you’ve tried it!”
Paddy and his wife Sylvia, who live in Warrington with their three children, have been fostering for just over 2 years. They’d considered becoming foster carers for a long time before eventually taking the plunge and were approved in 2018. Paddy and Sylvia’s first foster child was a 4 day old baby, who they cared for until the baby was adopted at 6 months. Paddy explains; “Having had three of our own children, we weren’t fazed by looking after a baby again and we immediately bonded. The six months he was in our care went so quickly and I felt proud to have been able to give him a good start in life. When he was adopted, we were able to meet his new parents and I knew he would have a fabulous life with them. The whole process and care involved was handled brilliantly by our social workers and we had no hesitation in wanting to continue and foster more children.”
A few months later, Paddy and Sylvia began to foster a toddler. Now four, they have been with Paddy and his family for over a year and once again, fostering has proven to be a hugely uplifting and positive experience, although not without a few challenges. Paddy says; “Fostering can be very emotional at times and you need lots of patience and understanding. Fortunately, the provision of excellent training and good quality advice from our local authority fostering team really helps you to succeed in the role.”
In addition, Paddy goes on to say that; “As a male foster carer, I always try and ensure I’m a positive role model to a child who may not have had one in their life before. I can help to advise and guide them through life and demonstrate how being treated with kindness and respect are important qualities for them to follow.”
During the Coronavirus pandemic Paddy, like many others has been adjusting to having to work from home. This has made it difficult to separate time spent at work from time spent with family, and occasional interruptions from his foster child when he is on a video call or conference, can be tricky. However, Paddy has found the best way to counter-act this is to ensure that he always spends some regular one on one time during the course of his working day with her. “Giving some dedicated time and attention is important and doesn’t require anything more than drawing and painting together, or cooking pancakes in the kitchen. We are lucky that we have a back garden too, with a trampoline and swings, so getting outside for lots of fresh air and exercise has been really important during this prolonged period of lockdown.”
When asked to sum up his time as a foster carer, Paddy says; “It’s hugely rewarding and the benefits easily outweigh everything else. To see a child develop and grow as a result of your care is just amazing!”
Foster carers Alex and Andy from Widnes have been fostering for just over two years and recently welcomed 3 siblings into their home. Leading up to Father’s Day we spoke to them about being role models to the children they look after.
Alex says “We chose fostering because we wanted to make a difference to children and provide a more stable environment for children in need of one. We’ve become a family really, and learned lots of valuable lessons of looking after young people. Due to the COVID-19 thing, it’s been a bit more stressful than normal but it’s been so much more worth it! We’ve seen the children grow happier and they’re learning new things and experiencing new events that they may not have had previously. It’s so lovely to see them develop day by day.”
When asked what they would tell anybody who wants to become a foster carer, they told us “It can really change your life and is a huge step in your personal circumstances, so if you feel you can do it, the daily rewards are very well worth it”.