We hear from new foster carers about why they chose to foster and their experiences so far…
Foster carers Ben and Miriam have a teenage son of their own and have just completed their first year of fostering as a family after being approved in December 2019.
Ben originally enjoyed his job in IT but felt he wanted to do more. Miriam knew that Ben’s patience and caring attitude would be suited to the role of a foster carer and so they enquired. They have now been approved foster carers for 12 months with Ben giving up his role in IT to be the main carer.
Ben explains, “Miriam had experience of fostering while growing up as her parents fostered when she was about 8 years old which had a profound and positive effect on her, whilst my parents are from Nigeria although I was born in this country. When my parents had to go back to Nigeria, I was brought up by a friend of the family, so I have some empathy with what it is like to be cared for by someone who is not your birth family.”
He goes on to say “The training and support we have received throughout the fostering assessment process and beyond has been brilliant and the whole family has learned so much about themselves, as well as what life can be like for less fortunate and vulnerable children.”
Ben and Miriam were naturally apprehensive about the impact that fostering would have on their own son but wanted him to have a deeper understanding of children who may not be as fortunate as himself. Miriam explains “Experiences I had as a child really changed my outlook on life and both Ben and I feel that if we can, then being able to help people to benefit from a better life is really important to us.”
In December 2019 Ben and Miriam cared for their first foster son, who was 11 years of age. He lived with the family on a short term basis for several months and has now been reunited with members of his family. Caring for a child who was away from his family was not always easy, however, slowly but surely they made positive progress as a foster family.
Miriam explains; “In the time that he spent with us he began to relax more thanks to a consistent approach and regular routines. He began to look up to our son a little bit and that had a positive effect on his progress too. During the lockdown he received calls from his teacher who was impressed with his new found confidence in his school work, attitude and activities he had been doing.”
In October 2020, their foster son moved on to his long-term home where he has been reunited with his siblings. Throughout his time with Miriam and Ben they had created a scrapbook and photo album to capture all the experiences they had as a foster family so their foster son could take these memories with him. Miriam says “His face lit up with joy and happiness when he saw the photos of the time we’d spent together. After he left, his social worker told us that he kept the photo album at the side of his bed – that for us is very special and shows that we made a connection and a real positive difference to his life. We’re excited by what our next foster child will be like and to learn and build on the experiences we have had in 2020.”
Foster carer Maggie from Runcorn and her husband decided to foster last year and were approved in May 2020. Here they tell us a little bit more about their fostering journey so far.
Maggie originally enjoyed her job in retail and having thought about fostering for a while, decided she’d like to change to a more homebased role and provide a safe and stable home for a vulnerable local child. Maggie explains; “My own children are grown up and have left home now. My husband and I wanted to make a positive difference to other children, who may not have had the happy upbringing my own children have had. My youngest son knew we were interested in fostering and he sent us the enquiry details for Foster4, which gave us the push we needed to take the first step to becoming foster carers.”
Maggie goes on to say, “The process from initial enquiry to becoming approved foster carers was about 4 months. It felt quite quick but everyone we spoke to from the Support Workers to other professionals throughout the fostering assessment process were so helpful and friendly, that we felt fully supported every step of the way. We have a lovely Support Worker who is always on hand if we have any questions and is always so helpful – she is only a phone call away whenever we need her advice with anything.”
Shortly after being approved, Maggie and her husband cared for their first foster daughter. She moved in at the end of May 2020 and immediately settled in, despite the unusual year 2020 has been and the challenges of living with the restrictions that Covid has imposed on everyone. She is enjoying the stability and a safe home life that fostering so often provides.
Maggie explains; “In the time that our foster daughter has been with us we have been able to enjoy day trips and family days out. We have visited places she had never been to before including some local landmarks like New Brighton beach, which she was keen to see. In the summer we were able to go a bit further afield to Scarborough and Whitby, where we enjoyed playing on the beach and going on the fairground rides.”
Maggie has found fostering a very positive and worthwhile experience and she and her husband are enjoying caring for their foster daughter. She says, “Our family have been very supportive of our decision to foster. It is really important to ensure everyone is fully on board and understands what is involved and expected. If you are interested in being a foster carer, my advice would be to look into it carefully and ask as many questions as you can to make sure you are as well informed as possible. Attending an Information Session with Foster4 is a great way to initially find out more.”
Foster carers Louisa and Alex from Warrington decided to foster in October 2019 and were approved in March 2020. Here they tell us a little bit more about their fostering journey so far.
Louisa knew a little about what fostering is like through a close family member who has been a foster carer for a number of years. For Alex it felt like a natural role to move into as several of her relatives are childminders, so caring for other people’s children was something she was very familiar with. They both love being around children and after speaking with those around them, made the decision to make initial enquiries.
Louisa says; “We looked at a number of fostering options, not realising the difference between fostering with your local authority and fostering with a private agency. But when we spoke to a member of the team at Foster4, she was so approachable and friendly and gave us lots of helpful advice, it immediately put us at our ease, so we decided that fostering with our local authority was the route for us.” Alex adds, “They were interested in us as people and what we could bring to the role of a foster carer, which was fantastic to hear.”
Louisa and Alex began caring for their first foster children, a young sibling group, during the first national lockdown. Louisa explains; “We had about 10 days of initial chats and introductions remotely and we were able to talk to the children and show them what our house is like. They were very excited when they first arrived and were bundles of pure energy, it was crazy but great fun! To help them settle in we concentrated on setting boundaries and introducing routines to help the children get used to us and their new home.”
Alex goes onto say; “As new carers we were nervous about behavioral issues the children may have but on the whole everything has gone very smoothly and we haven’t had any issues that we haven’t been able to resolve. The training offered by Warrington Council is fantastic and our supervising social worker is brilliant. She and the team have been able to ensure we are always properly supported, 24/7. Just before the children were placed with us, the country went into lockdown which was a bit scary at first but we were able to keep in regular contact with our social worker virtually, until face to face visits were able to start again.”
Although the pandemic hasn’t made things easy, Louisa and Alex were still able to enjoy days out and a camping trip last summer. Louisa says,
Both Louisa and Alex have found fostering to be a very positive and worthwhile experience and their advice to others is; “Always do your research and ask as many questions as you can. There are some really great online forums and communities on Facebook and Instagram, particularly once you are approved, where you can chat with fellow foster carers – there’s always more to learn! But speaking to the team at Foster4 is a great place to start and get expert advice about fostering children in your local area.”
If you have been inspired by the stories above and would like to know about becoming a foster carer for Cheshire West and Chester, Halton or Warrington, please enquire here