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Not All Roses, But So Rewarding

Friday 22 March 2024

Jo and Paul’s Experience of Fostering

Jo and Paul worked in the prison service for many years. As they got to know the prisoners, they began to realise that many of the problems began in childhood. The idea of fostering children started forming in their minds then, but it wasn’t the right time for them to become foster carers.

The right time

By 2019, however, Jo had had a change of career and was a self-employed reflexologist with more flexibility to care for foster children. Jo and Paul had six birth children between them from previous relationships, and three grandchildren. Their children were supportive of the idea of Jo and Paul becoming foster carers, so in 2019 they began the application process and were approved in 2020. Jo was the primary carer as Paul still worked full-time in the prison service.

The right place

The couple chose to foster with Children First, one of a number of independent fostering agencies locally that they considered. Jo explained their decision:

“We spoke with a couple of foster carers from Children First and our hearts told us this was the right place. We liked the support system – the Supervising Social Workers, foster carer forums, buddying system and support groups. We needed that because we were going into an area we’d never worked in before and we wanted to do the best we possibly could.”


Their first foster child – a boy of 14 – arrived in summer 2020. He fitted in straight away and they were optimistic that he would remain with them long-term but unfortunately problems began to arise.

“He kept disappearing and coming home with expensive items and we just knew that something was wrong,” said Jo. “We discovered that he was drug running. It was heart-breaking as we’d get him settled down and then he’d be gone again. The agency was brilliant. They kept in regular contact and offered me therapeutic support. In the end he was with us for a year, but we couldn’t carry on as we couldn’t keep him safe. It was really tough.”


Jo and Paul took a two month break from fostering. Jo said:

“To be honest, we considered quitting but we decided you can’t do that just because you’ve had one bad experience. We needed time to grieve because he was such a lovely boy and you get involved emotionally, even if you try not to. The agency gave me therapy for as long as I needed it and I went along to the support groups. That really helped because I realised we’d done everything we could have done. It gave me strength and we realised that we still really wanted to make a difference so we started again.”

Jo left her job as a reflexologist at this point so she could focus full-time on fostering. The couple decided they wanted to foster siblings so they went back to panel to be reapproved.

Twin boys

In September 2021, they received a call about twin boys aged seven. One of the boys was Autistic and the other had ADHD. Initially Jo and Paul declined as it was an urgent placement and they felt they needed time to undertake training so they could understand more about the boys’ needs. However, they were concerned that the twins would end up being split up, so within a few days they said yes and the boys arrived late in the afternoon on a Friday.

Jo said:

“The weekend was really difficult. Over the course of those two days, it became apparent to us that the sibling with ADHD needed specialist therapeutic help and that the two boys couldn’t stay together. We told the agency we would keep one of the twins but couldn’t care for the other. They agreed and the sibling with Autism has been with us ever since.

He has absolutely thrived. When he first came he used to have regular meltdowns and couldn’t dress himself or brush his teeth. But now he’s all smiles at home and he gets himself ready in the morning without a problem. He has grown to trust us and we have done everything we can to provide a loving home for him. We have done courses on Autism and Therapeutic Parenting so we can give him the support he needs.”


Jo recalls feeling elated when the boy, who used to be unable to sleep at night due to fear, told her he never wanted to leave because she and Paul made him feel safe.

Jo said:

“He’s like a different child these days. We still have a long way to go, particularly at school as he finds mainstream schooling difficult, but we’re working our way through it. He still has contact with his brother, which can be a bit up and down, and also with his sister who is now seven and lives with her aunt who is a registered foster carer. We are building a good relationship with her, although contact with his birth mum remains a challenge.”

Realising that a child who was scared has grown to trust you is one of the best parts of fostering for Jo. She said: “Sometimes I just watch him and look at the smile on his face. It gives me such a warm feeling.”

Paul agreed, adding:

“I love seeing him smile, or when he talks to me and it makes me laugh. The way he puts things across can be hilarious.”

In contrast, the hardest thing they faced was the ending of their first placement. “I know it was the right thing to do but it doesn’t make it any easier,” explained Jo. “In my low moments, I felt like we gave up on him and that’s hard.”

Do your research

Jo and Paul are keen to encourage would-be foster carers to apply if they have the love and patience to foster. Jo said: “Do your research, talk to other foster carers. I 100% recommend fostering. It’s not easy but the reward is better than anything.”

Paul added:

“If people at work ask me about fostering I’m honest about it. The children who come and live with you will have issues. It is not all roses but the satisfaction you get from it is fantastic.”

If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible, try our Can I Foster? tool, which answers common questions about suitability to foster, based on a personalised Q and A style format. The outcome might surprise you! If you’re ready to chat with one of our fostering advisors, contact your local team.


Find out if you could be a foster carer
Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.