The couple had almost given up hope when someone recommended they talk to Family Placement, an independent fostering agency based in Oxfordshire. Vicky said:
“We’d had knock-back after knock-back so our confidence was low and we were ready to give up on the idea of fostering altogether. We’d always got around fine using public transport and didn’t think we’d have a problem taking foster children to family contact sessions, but the local authority and several independent agencies thought otherwise. So we couldn’t believe it when Family Placement said they’d be happy to take our application forward. They said ‘we have faith in you, you’ve said you can get around on public transport and we believe you’. It was fantastic.”
They were approved three years ago in 2020. Initially they were offered three possible placements. Vicky said:
“We really wanted to get the right match. Lisa from Family Placement went through them with us and helped us to choose a girl of nine who was described as ‘complex’. Actually, the problem was that she hadn’t really been listened to, as we’ve subsequently found out.”
Their foster child arrived with a bagful of clothes, most of which she’d grown out of or that were stained and torn. She was small for her age and had had a difficult start in life.
“We were warned that there would be a honeymoon period but then things would change. It never happened, the whole thing was very smooth. That’s not to say we never had challenges. Lorraine used to call them ‘moments’. We’d say something and she’d get upset, so we’d ask her to come and sit at ‘the talking table’. We’d make her laugh. Over time, the moments got less and less.
“She used to have ticks and she’d clear her throat repeatedly. The doctor thought it was asthma but it turned out to be nothing more than hayfever. We wrote up the house rules and put a laminated copy up on her bedroom wall – simple stuff like making her own bed, taking out the recycling. She looked at them and said ‘I already do all that’ and we said ‘well, everything will be fine then. And it has been.”
Since arriving with them three years ago, their foster daughter has flourished. She’s an A-grade student and her school reports are exemplary. Lorraine said:
“She has helped to change some people’s perceptions about foster children – they are stunned by how she is and how well she does at school. People see certain behaviours and there’s a tendency to judge but we’ve always seen it as not the child’s fault. It depends what they’ve been through.”
After only a couple of months, their foster child was expressing a desire to stay with Vicky and Lorraine. Last November, the foster placement became long-term and the family has never been happier.
“We always said that as long as she was happy she wasn’t going anywhere, but she still had doubts. The tick would come back and she’d get anxious, she wanted confirmation in black and white. When Lorraine had a bereavement and we mentioned respite to her, she was upset. She thought she might go and not come back. There was a fear there as this had happened once before with another foster carer. So we applied to have her long-term. It took a few months but when the letter arrived, we framed it and put it up on her wall.”
Part of the family
In the early days, their foster daughter nicknamed the couple Agent Vic and Paish (as in ‘patient’). But now she calls them Mum and Mumma. The couple spoke to social workers to ask if this was OK, after explaining to their foster daughter that she only has one ‘mum’. But it’s the foster child’s choice and the social workers are happy. She also has nicknames for the wider family, who have all welcomed her with open arms.
The girl has regular contact with her dad’s family and Vicky and Lorraine and their foster child recently went on a picnic with the dad and stepmother. The foster child is one of seven siblings and they all keep in contact and play games online together using a private line.
As their foster daughter enters her teenage years, Vicky and Lorraine recognise that there could be more challenges ahead but they are not fazed. Lorraine said:
“Sometimes she speaks differently, her body is changing. But we just take a step back and think about how we were at that age and say to her ‘we’ve all been there’. Even as adults people can be snappy sometimes. We just hug it out.”
Vicky and Lorraine talk animatedly about the highs of fostering – from watching their foster daughter in the school play to celebrating with her after achieving her purple belt in karate. They struggle to identify many lows. Their only regret is that they didn’t discover Family Placement back in 2014 when they were first interested in fostering as it would have made the application process a lot easier and quicker.
In the swing of things
To would-be foster carers they say:
“You need patience, care, trust, a broad mind, an ability to listen. If you can bring this – and a lot of love – to a foster child’s life, fostering is such a rewarding thing to do. Our agency is there to support us 24/7 so we’ve never had a problem. And we’re in contact with other foster carers locally – we all help and support each other. It was all a mystery to us when we started but now we’re getting properly into the swing of things and we love it.”
If you would like to find out more about fostering you can do so here