Leeann and her partner Chris both work full time and are approved foster carers with Cheshire West and Chester Council, offering children short term care in their home. Fostering was a big family decision and Leeann’s son was involved right from the start.
“We look after children aged between five and ten years old. We decided to care for children in this age range as we both work full-time and wanted to also care for children younger than our own. Being short-term carers also means we are able to help lots of children. Before we made the first step there was a big family discussion and our son was involved throughout all of it. He did a lot of work with a family support worker while we were being assessed which really helped him.
“He now goes to the Council’s Sons and Daughters group and he loves that. They all meet up monthly and they have a topic of discussion that they talk about. He’s friends with the other children in the group too. It’s great because they know that they’ve got people there that are in the exactly the same position as them and if they need to go to talk to somebody they’ll understand. It’s great that they’ve all formed such good friendships.”
As a full-time teaching assistant at a local primary school, Leeann found that she already had a range of skills that could be transferred over to her fostering role.
“The skills I have picked up from my job definitely transfer over to fostering. As a teaching assistant I work with children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and I’ve done additional qualifications around this subject. Many of the children that come to us are delayed in their education and a lot of them have fallen behind, not through their own fault, but by the circumstances they’ve found themselves in. My role as a foster carer is to just nurture them a little bit more at home and then they can go in to school and say ‘I’ve learnt this at home’. It can be a really big step for them. What I love is teaching them to enjoy learning again and getting them excited about it. Showing them where it’s going to take them and what they are going to do. Its little things like that where you see a massive difference.
“We’ve seen them develop skills that nobody knew they had because they haven’t been given the opportunity to show them. One of our children taught herself to play a keyboard by ear when staying with us. Through her school and through pupil premium funding, she went on to have piano lessons and she turned out amazing at it and nobody knew she could play the piano.
Also you see their education levels increase as the year goes on. As we only have them for a short period I’ll only see them through one academic year usually, but from where they started to where they get to at the end of the school year you can definitely see the difference.”
Leeann says that the first time they had a child come and stay with them they were so nervous.
“The little boy was so scared, he didn’t take his coat off for four hours but gradually he became less anxious. After a few days, he settled in. I think we needed a few days to settle in to it too. Now the phone goes and we’re like: ‘ok, see you when you get here’. You do still get a bit nervous as you don’t know what you’re going to be faced with. I’ll never forget the first time. Just the whole anticipation about it. We had no need to feel nervous once he got here it was fine. It’s just the unknown at the time. Once they’re here it’s just like having your own children in the house.”
During their careers as foster carers Leeann and Chris have received a recognition award for celebrating one of their children’s ethnicity.
“We did things with her to celebrate her heritage including taking her to restaurants from her families country of origin to celebrate their new year. And we let her cook us food from her family’s country of origin.”
The ability to accept the children who are placed with you like you would anyone else is one of the top skills that Leeann says a foster carer should have.
“Just to be able to accept them for who they are and help them to find their path and where they want to go and be a really good listener.
“The best part of being a foster carer is seeing them being kids again. For them to be able to play and not worry about anything and to help take their worries away from them is an amazing thing to do.”
For anyone considering fostering Leeann says that they should definitely look into it.
“Don’t think it’s all about looking after children with additional needs or kids that are unruly. It’s nothing like that.
These are just children that need you to give them extra patience, kindness and care.
I’d say just do it. It was the best thing we ever did. ”