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Living My Best Life

Thursday 01 February 2024

Liz’s Story

After 23 years as a paediatric nurse, Liz was ready to realise her dream of becoming a foster carer. Her time on the wards with seriously ill children, some of whom had life-limiting conditions, had given her a unique set of skills. But it had also given her a passion to help some of the most vulnerable young people in society.

More than a job

Caring for children was never just a job for Liz, who had twice put herself forward to foster a terminally ill child on her ward with no one to care for them. The second time she came very close to fostering a young girl with cystic fibrosis before the girl, tragically, died.

By 2020, however, Liz was in a position to give up her work as a nurse and apply to become a full-time foster carer. She explained:

“I’d been a single mum since my daughter was one and I’d never had a home big enough to foster children in. But, when my mum turned 84, she sold her home and came to live with me so I could care for her. We were able to buy a house that was big enough for her, my teenage daughter and me, with a spare room that could be used for a foster child. We moved into the house in April 2020 and by May I had begun the application process to become a foster carer.”

Some doubts

Liz chose Pathway Care, after speaking with friends who were foster carers and who recommended the agency highly. A few weeks in, she paused the application process as her daughter began to have some doubts:

“She couldn’t really understand why I would want to go back to caring for young children again now that she was nearly an adult. She was concerned about me and thought I should be enjoying my freedom, but once she understood how much I wanted to foster and that caring for children was all I’d ever wanted to do, she was fine about it. She’s been brilliant with the foster children.”

Liz was approved as a foster carer in January 2021. Days before she left her job as a nurse, she received a phone call. Two young boys, aged five and nine, had lost their parents and sibling very suddenly and tragically. They were in hospital and needed urgent care from a foster care with experience of dealing with trauma. Although Liz was newly-approved as a foster carer, her experience as a paediatric nurse meant she fitted the bill, in the opinion of social workers.

Straight to the beach

Within days, Liz picked the boys up from hospital and brought them home.

“We had to stop on the way at Asda to get them some clothes because they only had what they were wearing,” Liz explained. “We got wellies and coats because they wanted to go straight to the beach. So that’s what we did. Within minutes they were up to their waist in water. We went to the beach every day for the first six months.”

Challenging behaviour

A picture of neglect emerged and, despite all her experience, despite her passion, despite her professional skills, within a few short months Liz said she felt “broken”. She explained:

“Their behaviour was challenging. They were having flashbacks and nightmares and there was also developmental trauma. Even though I’d done the Therapeutic Parenting training, I found I didn’t know what to do when the youngest boy in particular, was having a meltdown.”

Practical examples

The turning point came when Liz’s social worker introduced her to the children’s stories written by Sarah Naish, founder of the Centre for Excellence in Child Trauma and best-selling author on Therapeutic Parenting. Books like ‘William Wobbly and the Very Bad Day’  became a favourite in the house and not only did the youngest child love it but it also gave Liz some practical examples of how to use Therapeutic Parenting approaches like empathy, curiosity and pace.

“It was great. We read and re-read it and, afterwards the other books I’d read about Therapeutic Parenting made more sense. Things changed after that. We have routines and we stick to them. The boys’ lives were chaotic before so it helps to do the same thing at the same time every day.”

Three years on

It is now three years since Liz was approved as a foster carer. The elder of the two brothers, who has a different father to his sibling, has moved on to live with his father and new family. Things are working out well. Liz and her foster son are in regular contact with them and they often meet up.

Little ray of sunshine

The younger of the two boys is staying with Liz under a Special Guardianship Order and is doing well. Liz’s mum, now 88, loves having a young person in the house and the two of them play games, do puzzles and watch TV together. She calls him her “little ray of sunshine” and he has become an integral part of the wider family.

Liz’s daughter is an invaluable support, helping with the foster child when Liz has to go out. Liz said:

“Although, technically, she’s his sister, she’s more like an aunt. She’s bonded so well with him and him with her. I’m so proud of her. In my annual review recently she told them ‘mum lights up whenever there are children around’. It was great to hear that after her concerns at the start.”

For the last 11 months, an older boy of 14, has also been fostered by Liz. Despite the differences in their age, the two boys get on really well but the teenage boy will shortly be moving on to new foster carers so he can be closer to his school and twin.

Nothing I would change

For Liz, the rewards of fostering far outweigh the challenges. Asked to sum up what she loves about it, Liz said:

“It’s just being able to care for these children. It was an intense introduction to fostering but there’s nothing I would change. The agency was amazing. The managers kept their phones on over the weekend when the boys first come to me, so I’d have someone I could call if I needed it. The older boy is now happy and safe with his dad and new partner and we see them regularly. We have our little boy on a Special Guardianship Order and we are also in touch with members of his birth family. Our lives have been enriched immeasurably by fostering. The boys are happy and settled and I am living my best life.”

If you would like to find out more about fostering, you can enquire here, or to find out more about our Faces of Fostering campaign, click here.


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Find out if you could be a foster carer
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