Covid-19 has had many different impacts but one of these has been a growing interest in working from home and seeking more rewarding types of employment that also offers financial stability, with a generous fostering allowance and a host of perks and benefits.
Becoming a foster carer for the first time is both an exciting and a stressful time. For foster carers who started their new roles during the pandemic, there were additional challenges to face.
We spoke to such two foster families, who told us how they overcame the difficulties – as well as seizing opportunities – that this unique situation presented.
Sally and husband William were approved as foster carers in November 2019. Their first foster children – a boy of five and his three-year-old sister – arrived in June 2020 in the midst of lockdown.
It was a stressful time, Sally admitted. Their two birth children, aged 11 and nine, were both being home schooled at the time and her husband was working from home.
On the positive side, she said: “Being thrown in the deep end like that meant we bonded really quickly as a family and we got to spend a lot of time outside together in the garden and paddling pool.
“The rule of six meant we couldn’t see any other families, as we were already six people, and that was quite hard.
“Also, our five-year-old foster child didn’t really understand why he had to go to school when my two birth children were being schooled at home and he didn’t want to go to school most days, which was difficult.”
The added stresses caused by the pandemic lockdown haven’t shaken the couple’s sense of commitment to fostering, or their experience.
Sally added: “Overall, though, it has been a fantastic experience. I’ve always worked in childcare – as a teacher, nanny and baby massage therapist – and we’ve loved having young children with us again.
“We’re with Family Placement [an independent fostering agency, part of National Fostering Group]. They’ve been really supportive and I’ve done lots of different training courses with them, even during lockdown.
“The foster children were with us until Christmas 2020 when they returned home. This was both sad, as we all loved having them here, but also lovely as we’d formed a good relationship with their birth mum and really enjoyed the reunification process.
“We’ve kept in contact since they left and done Facetime, which has been great.”
While Sally and William were already approved as foster carers before lockdown, for Steve and Veli the entire applications and approval process took place against the backdrop of Covid.
Becoming foster carers was the realisation of a long-held dream for them, inspired by Steve’s parents, who fostered; his older brother and sister came to them as foster children and have always remained part of the family.
For Steve, fostering is a way of life and he wanted to become a foster carer as a way of offering meaningful support to vulnerable children.
Veli grew up in Indonesia as part of a big family and wanted other children to experience the kind of happy childhood that she had.
Steve and Veli were approved as foster carers in April 2021 and got their first foster child – a six-year-old boy – almost immediately.
Covid-19 restrictions meant that the entire approvals process – including the Skills to Foster training course – had been completed online.
Steve said: “It was tricky, but by the time we got to that point we were pretty accustomed to it as a way of working. I’m an academic director and had taken the whole school online by this time so it was familiar.
“Given the choice, though, I think we’d have preferred to be able to do things face-to-face, as online training is very tiring.”
Steve and Veli are foster carers in Oxfordshire, also with Family Placement independent fostering agency, which is based in Witney.
The fact that all networking is taking place online due to Covid-19 means that they have been able to ‘meet’ with a wider variety of other foster carers, even if they don’t live close by, and that has been a real advantage.
The foster agency has also offered a high level of one-to-one support all throughout lockdown and Steve and Veli feel “well supported and happy about that”.
For their 15-year-old birth daughter, the arrival of a six-year-old foster child has not been without its challenges and the opportunity for her to speak with the supervising social worker has been helpful.
Steve’s teaching background enables him to empathise with some of the more challenging behaviour of their foster child and he also finds himself able to empathise with their daughter, having grown up with foster children in the house.
While beginning their fostering journey during Covid-19 was a challenge, it was not as challenging as it could have been.
“By the time our foster child came, the restrictions were starting to ease,” Steve explained.
“For example, we could go and buy what we needed locally but this would have been much harder during lockdown.
“As with all fostering, we’ve had some challenges but there have also been plenty of rewarding moments – seeing our foster child smile and knowing we’ve made him happy, sharing in his successes at school.
“We don’t know how long he will be with us so we are just enjoying things day by day. There are moments when it’s tough but it’s also a huge amount of fun.”
Fostering offers a stable and rewarding role for people who are interested in making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children. If this sounds like you, get in touch with your local team for more information.