Marie worked for most of her career in the field of substance misuse. She saw at first hand the impact it has on families and her work also took her into child protection and safeguarding.
So, when she began looking for a new challenge and a way to make a difference, fostering seemed like the obvious choice. Marie was particularly attracted to parent and child fostering as she had extensive experience of working with pregnant women and wanted to help empower new mothers to care falpor their children.
As a single mum herself, she understands how challenging it can be to look after a young child alone. Since her daughter was two, Marie had hosted foreign students in her home and so both of them were accustomed to having many different children in the house. She applied to become a foster carer when her daughter was nine.
Marie explained why she chose an independent fostering agency rather than Local Authority:
“I had a good insight into Local Authority child services from working alongside them for many years. I know that the staff are extremely hard working and often have large case loads. I didn’t have any experience of working with independent fostering agencies but their caseloads appeared to be smaller so I concluded that staff would probably be less stressed and more able to support their foster carers.
“I was also attracted by the training and support offered by independent agencies. It took me a year to choose and in that time I did lots of research. In the end I chose Alpha Plus based in Oldham. Right from the outset they had a warm, person-centred approach and I really liked that. On a holistic level, I felt I’d be better supported by them, both in the early days as a new carer and in the longer-term. I really wanted to learn, too, and they had great training opportunities.”
She admits that giving up a full-time job with a stable income to become a foster carer was “scary” but she felt well-supported by her fostering agency. Marie said:
“Honestly I’ve been bowled over by the support I’ve received. It has been hard over the last year as a single carer, particularly with Covid, and it would have been easy to feel isolated but the agency has kept in touch with me throughout. There’s always someone on the end of the phone if you need them and, in my first year, a manager even came round to my house on Christmas Eve because I needed some help.
“Throughout the applications process I had a buddy who supported me, which was helpful, and we have regular support groups where we can talk to other carers. During Covid they’ve all been online but they’ve still been there. I’ve felt listened to and heard and well-held even though I’m on my own. I know that whatever I need I’ll be well-supported.”
Marie started with a parent and child placement, as she had intended, and is currently fostering a little boy who was five when he arrived. She lives just outside Lancaster and says that it is ideal as a place to foster. Favourite places to visit include Sandcastles indoor water park in Blackpool and the nearby Lake District.
Her advice to foster carers is “do your research”. Marie said:
“Everyone is different. I chose an independent fostering agency rather than Local Authority but you might choose something different. Think about what you want your role as a foster carer to look like. You might choose to become a respite foster carer or you may decide you only want to foster teenagers, for example. Fostering is a vast field with lots of different variables so choose what works for you. I’d also say ‘be flexible and stay open, listen to your instincts’. There is lots of training and support available to you so why not grab it?”
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