Lockdown proved to be something of a life-changer for Nicola and Steve after they became first-time foster carers in the Leicester area.
Nicola had always worked in childcare and had first-hand experience of looked after children. For many years, she’d been interested in becoming a foster carer – lockdown provided an opportunity to find out more, away from the usual pressures of work.
“We began to put feelers out and we came across Jay Fostering in Leicestershire [part of National Fostering Group],” said Nicola.
“We made contact and we were really happy with the way they responded. They were helpful and informative but not pushy. Everything was done at our pace.
“We applied and were approved a few months later. It was a challenge to begin fostering during the pandemic. There was no face-to-face support, but we had lots of virtual support and calls and the training was excellent.
“There’s not much training I haven’t done over the last 12 months, to be honest. And Jay have been fantastic. They can’t do enough to support us.”
We offer many different types of foster care and our foster carers can choose what kind they want to pursue.
Nicola and Steve were initially approved as short-term and respite foster carers – Nicola was keen to continue working part-time and Steve is a full-time mechanic.
However, when two brothers arrived, aged four and six, Nicola realised that, as much as she loved her job, she couldn’t do that and continue working.
“I left work on a Friday night and we got the call. The boys arrived full of beans. They slotted straight into our lives, as if they’d always been there.
“Watching the boys in our care thrive and achieve has been the highlight of our year and, of course, seeing them happy”
“They needed long-term care and we wanted to give them that. We went back to panel in November 2021 and were approved as long-term foster carers.”
A year on, Nicola describes their fostering journey as “a mad roller-coaster” and “the best life decision we have ever made”.
“It’s been a tough journey but the positive far outweigh any negatives and we really can’t wait to see what the future holds,” she said.
“Watching the boys in our care thrive and achieve has been the highlight of our year and, of course, seeing them happy.”
One of the challenges the family faced was the distance from the boys’ school – a 45-minute journey each way.
“It was a fantastic school and very supportive,” Nicola explained, “but the boys couldn’t do play dates due to the distance and we really wanted them to make friends and feel part of the community.
“So, the decision was made to move them to a local school which has never had foster children before. It has been a challenge for everyone, but the school is very willing to learn and do what is best for the boys and we are working together to support them.”
Contact with their other siblings has also been difficult sometimes, particularly for the younger brother. Also, it can be tough to manage the situation when one brother wants to go and the other one doesn’t.
Nicola finds it especially difficult to hear about the boys’ past experiences and the impact that has had on them. However, it’s rewarding for the couple to be able to give the boys the childhood they deserve and watching them thrive.
“They’ve only been with us a short time but last night we were looking back at photos of when they first came and they look like different children,” Nicola said.
“It has been amazing watching them achieve things that they couldn’t do before – even simple things like playing together and treating each other with respect. They both play football and train every week and even the professionals who train them have been surprised by how well they are doing.”
“I wish we’d done it years ago”
Being part of an experienced team and community of local foster carers has been invaluable to their success.
“We have a great support network around us,” Nicola added, “and our supervising social worker has been an absolute angel, which makes a big difference.
“I wish we’d done it years ago.”
“If you’re thinking about fostering I’d say make that call,” Nicola said.
“The fostering agencies will give you answers to your questions and then at least you’ll know. It’s not easy, you need to make time for yourself. But keep at it because the rewards are massive.”
National Fostering Group provides fostering opportunities across all areas of the UK. To find out more or start your application, get in touch.