Laura and her partner Charli recently started out on their fostering journey in the West Midlands. For Laura, it has been a lifelong ambition to foster. She had a difficult childhood and always felt that with more help and support growing up she’d have reached a better place in her life far quicker.
She wants to help children going through the same sort of challenges that she faced and to share some of what she’s learned along the way. By becoming foster carers, Laura and Charli – both in their 30s – hope to give vulnerable children better chances in life.
“We thought about it for a couple of years before deciding to go ahead and we looked into the different options,” said Laura.
“We did our own research into trauma and its effect on children and what therapeutic parenting is all about. We wanted to be well-informed so we could start out offering the best support we could.”
During the application, they began discussions with the agency about a teen foster child who they might be a good fit with. On the day they were approved, she came to live with them.
“She’s settled in well but, like any teenager, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster,” Laura said.
“School in particular has been a problem. They don’t really understand the therapeutic approach and she has not got the support she needs. We are careful not to push her.
“Although we want her to do her homework and get on well at school, for us it is more important that she feels secure and confident. We are focusing primarily on her emotional wellbeing and building up her self-esteem.
“Rather than push her to do things, we encourage her and praise her. She is interested in kick boxing and we have encouraged that as it supports her to have a healthy attitude, both in the dojo and outside in her normal life.”
It’s early days but the signs are encouraging. They’ve established a good routine and their foster child is settling well and happy in their care.
Laura said: “Although she’s not particularly tactile, she has her own ways of letting us know that she cares about us and that’s really great.
“The rewards are seeing her succeed, the tiny breakthroughs that let us know we are making a difference. Those are the diamonds.”
Laura and Charli are working closely with the foster child’s social worker and their own supervising social worker to make sure the right support is in place to support her to thrive.
“She has been let down by the education system and we are working hard to try and get more therapeutic support for her,” Laura said.
“It isn’t easy to try and build up a young person’s self-esteem when they keep being told they are failing at school. That’s very hard on her.”
When their foster child first arrived, she was having no contact with her father, but she’s now talking about seeing him again, which they regard as a positive sign. Contact with her mother is in the pipeline.
“I can’t say enough about how good therapeutic parenting is,” Laura said. “It makes such a difference to someone who has been through trauma like she has, as it helps us to understand her better and breaks down the barriers between traditional parenting and therapeutic parenting approaches.”
As new foster carers and first-time parents, Laura and Charli have undergone extensive training, supplementing their mandatory fostering courses with specialist skills training in topics like mental health and self-harm.
All professional foster care training provided by National Fostering Group is free. The training Laura and Charli have done, plus the support from their supervising social worker and peer support from other foster carers, have helped them to embrace the challenges of fostering.
While Laura describes fostering as “having lots of ups and downs”, she’s keen to share how rewarding it is.
“Nothing prepares you for how strongly you’ll feel about your foster child,” she said. “Fingers crossed she’ll be with us for the long-term.
“To be a good foster carer requires patience, empathy and an open mind. If you don’t understand something, it’s good to talk to others who do. It is so rewarding to give her little bits of hope that she can take forward into her adult life.”
National Fostering Group is the largest independent fostering agency in the UK, with more than 3,000 foster carers across the country.
This means we can offer better support and training than any other provider in the country, helping you be at your best in this important role.