It’s Carer’s Week 2018 and we are celebrating the inspirational work of our foster carers!
In this interview, we chat to Maxine about her experiences as a foster carer with NFA.
1. What made you want to become a foster carer?
I have always had a passion to want to help others and from a young age, I always knew I would do something in care work.
I began working in care homes and I loved my job; I did it for 10 years. During this time I met a lady who throughout her life had experienced difficult times. She has special needs and had gone through the process of having her children removed from her. I began to help her with one of her children. This grew into a passion of mine and I started the process of becoming a foster carer from there.
2. Can you tell us about your foster care training and first placement?
When we first got in touch with the NFA, they arranged a phone call back and from there we arranged a home visit. After this we started training – the assessment process was very long and intense; it’s important to be open and honest about yourself, your experiences and what you have to offer a young person/family if you are going to be lucky enough to be passed by the panel.
The process was in-depth. NFA is very people-centred and I built a really good relationship with the social worker who carried out the assessment. I felt during the assessment that the social worker understood us as a family and we really enjoyed the whole process.
Our early training focused on skills to foster. This was amazing and very detailed. It helped us understand all aspects of becoming a foster carer and it helped us meet other people who were also wanting to become foster carers. We also met people who were already foster carers, so we were able to go through the process as a group providing support to one another.
The training is very important to anyone wanting to become a foster carer. It gives you the tools you will need to begin your new future as a foster carer.
Our first placement was a young boy aged 9. He was living in a care home. When we met for the first time we clicked from the start and over the next few weeks we had lots of visits and some home visits – he then moved into our family home as a long-term placement.
We were very happy to offer him a loving home and I especially felt very lucky that he wanted to be a part of our family. As the years passed we began the process of becoming his Special Guardian – he is now 19 and I’m not going to pretend that it’s always been easy but I wouldn’t change a single moment.
3. What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of becoming a foster carer?
I don’t think that there is just one rewarding moment - every day we are part of helping change a young person’s life (and not only young people but also adults with babies, sibling groups etc.). There are so many rewarding moments, from being lucky enough to be part of rehabilitations with families, to being involved with professional teams in decisions that are being made in court cases, to seeing outcomes that are for the best interests of all concerned: all of these things fill me with such pride and achievement, even when it’s really hard and you feel you have no more to give, you find the strength to push through and, alongside all of the professional support, you keep going.
I cannot give you one rewarding moment because every day, good or bad, we help change lives and see progress with young people who live as part of the family. Watching them grow and shape a new future for themselves, helping them find their way, helping them in their recovery and just seeing a smile can fill your heart; giving them a loving and safe place is one of the most rewarding things about foster care.
4. Since becoming a foster carer what has been your proudest and moment?
Wow, what’s been my proudest moment? Where do I start? I could say the day we went through the panel and became foster carers. I could say meeting our first ever placement.
One of my proudest moments was helping to keep a sibling group together during a very difficult time and court case, supporting their mum, working together for the best of her children. This isn’t always the case but we were lucky enough to be part of helping this family rehabilitate back home – the children came to us aged 2, 3 and 6, and left us at 4, 6 and 8 – they are now 13, 14 and 16. We still have the pleasure of being part of their futures, their goals, their happiness and their ever-changing worlds.
I could say helping many other placements during very difficult and emotional times. Meeting people of all ages, fighting for their needs and rights, spotting things that others don’t see and helping them through hard times.
Proving continued support to all that have shared our family home and being a part of their futures even though they are no longer living with us is a source of real pride to me.
It fills my heart with such joy to be part of those moments shared with so many short term or long term placements. Each time brings proud moments and yes, it is very hard sometimes and sometimes hard on your whole family but I wouldn't change a single moment. As a family, we have grown with every experience and grown along the way.
5. What qualities do you think are important in foster carers?
You need to have the ability to care, to offer support to everyone that comes to live with you, to understand their needs and to see things that are not said in words in order to provide care to some very vulnerable young people and families.
You need to have the stamina to not judge and to see past what is being shown at that time and to find solutions to help.
You need to be able to be an advocate for many young people and families who need support in order for them to move forward and rebuild their lives.
So you need many qualities to be a foster carer, but the most important one is a big heart, to be able to give as much as you can, even when you think you have given all you have, dig deep and you will find more.
6. How important to you are the children and young people who come into your care? Have you stayed In touch with them since they moved on from your family?
The children, young people, families and adults who have come to live with us over the years are very important to us. They have become members of our family.
I believe that in order to do right by anyone coming to live with you, you need to give 100% and I will always continue to give extended support to the families and young people who have lived with us for as long as they need it.
It’s also important to me to be able to give continued support to young people we have rehabilitated back home to their birth parents.
I regularly take out young people who are no longer living with us; this gives their new placements support and respite and we’re still able to show care to them and maintain a relationship with them. I am very lucky and privileged to have ongoing contact with a mum and her baby (well, she’s now 3, nearly 4!) – we are all included in her happy moments and again, I’ll always provide support for mum if needed.
7. What would you say is the most challenging moment aspect of becoming a foster carer?
Well, there have been many challenging times over the years. For me, there isn’t just one challenging aspect of foster carer as you deal with some very difficult and traumatic situations that the young people are going through every day.
I can only speak for me and my family, but even amongst this trauma can be very challenging and yet rewarding too. Every day you get pushed to places you never thought you could go and it really stretches your abilities. At times, I have felt like I failed someone because I wasn't able to carry on or had hard times when a placement has moved on – but even through this, you learn to keep going.
Sometimes, just when you think you have got through one set of challenges you are presented with more but I wouldn’t change a single day of being a foster carer. It is for me the best feeling ever to be part of changing lives, being part of their recovery and even helping them move forward to the next steps in life.
Being a foster carer is challenging but most of all it is very rewarding.
8. Do you think more needs to be done to encourage families to foster?
I think if foster carers could meet and chat with people interested in becoming foster carers more often, and could tell them first-hand about the beauty of being a foster carer, the good and bad times, the day-to-day aspect of fostering and the impact you can have on young people and families, that would be a positive thing.
I think that this would help put prospective foster carers at ease and show them the rewards, the support that they will receive and hopefully encourage them to take their next steps in their fostering journey.
9. What kind of relationship do you have with NFA and what kind of support and training have you received from them?
My relationship with NFA has been very good. As a family, we have always been supported when going through some very difficult times, either in fostering or our own life problems and we have always felt that we could turn to NFA and our Supervising Social Worker.
We are very lucky to have a great relationship with our Supervising Social Worker; we think of her as a member of our home too. I have never to date not felt supported by her and NFA; we’ve been guided through and helped through every moment good or bad.
You will receive a vast amount of training at the beginning to help you begin your fostering journey and training continues throughout your time as a foster carer. You are offered all aspects of training and this gives you the tools you need to handle different situations. This helps you be the best foster carer you can be.
10. What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a foster carer?
I would advise anyone thinking of becoming a foster carer to pick up that phone and speak to someone about a home visit. I would say that this is simply one of the most beautiful and rewarding things you will ever be a part of.
It has many layers and hour by hour, day by day something different is presented to you that will warm your heart.
It can be very hard and at those moments the support you get from your Supervising Social Worker, the NFA and other foster carers will get you through. I have never not felt supported.
To be in a position to be able to offer a young person, family, sibling group, and/or parent a loving home, to be a part of your family and to be part of changing their lives forever is worth every single difficult moment you may go through.
I am thankful every day for being a foster carer.
If you are reading this now and can offer a loving, safe family home – pick up that phone, seek advice on the first steps and change some lives forever. I did and I have never looked back.
Ready to take the next step on your fostering journey? Visit the homepage for help, advice and support, or call us today on 0800 044 3030.