“As soon as I spoke with Jay Fostering, I liked their attitude,” says foster carer, Donna who lives in Leicestershire. “We’ve been with them five years now and I can’t fault them. The supervising social workers are great, they are real people. We don’t ever feel concerned if our social worker is going away because we know that everyone in the office knows us and we know them. If we can’t get through on the phone and we leave a message asking someone to call us back, they do.”
Donna and Chris began fostering in January 2011 with their local authority in Leicester. Their first few foster children were very young babies and one – a baby girl who was named by Donna – stayed with them for six months until she was adopted. Eleven years later, the girl is still in touch and remains an important part of the family’s life.
A few years after they were approved to foster, Donna and Chris made the decision to move to an independent fostering agency. They were looking for a professional, friendly team that shared their ethos and could offer personal support and training. After speaking to other foster carers, they approached Leicester based agency Jay Fostering, part of National Fostering Group and were immediately impressed by the way their enquiry was handled. They went through the applications process for a second time and began fostering with Jay in 2015.
Donna had found it hard to part with the babies they fostered early on and since 2012 the couple has fostered older children. The first – a girl of six – returned to her native Latvia to live with her grandmother after a year with Donna and Chris. She was followed by a girl of nine who stayed with them for nine months.
When Donna and Chris joined Jay, they brought with them another girl of eight, who is still with the family nearly eight years later and approaching her 16th birthday. She was joined by two boys, aged six and nine who became almost like siblings. The youngest returned to live with his father a few years ago but the older boy, now 13, is still with them.
For Donna the best part about fostering is seeing the children happy and knowing they are safe and well cared-for. She said:
“It is so comforting to be able to care for them, especially if they’ve come from difficult circumstances. It’s so exciting when they arrive, but those first few months can also be really tough. They’ve been through so much and they can be really disruptive at first. There are many different things you have to juggle, including contact with their birth family and meetings with all kinds of professionals. There’s a lot to do but then things start to calm down into a regular routine and the children become more settled.”
While there are countless rewards to fostering, there are challenges too. Donna says:
“Sometimes the children might not like you very much. You have to be able to not take things personally and be OK when they say they hate you. You also have to be able to be an advocate for that child and to be firm and confident in speaking up for them. My advice would be trust your instincts, pick your battles and stay strong. It can be frustrating sometimes, but it helps to have a really good supervising social worker and we have been lucky to have some great ones with Jay.”
For Donna, fostering is realising a lifelong ambition that began when she was a child herself. She has done many different types of training including an NVQ level III and if she is facing a particular challenge with a child she always looks to see what type of training is available to support her. She has participated in support groups and social events with Jay and plans to get more involved in the future.
Are there any things she wishes she’d known at the start of their fostering journey?
Donna replies: “Nothing really prepares you for the realities of fostering and you never quite know who is coming through the door. The rewards are 10 times greater than you expect and the lows 10 times worse. Saying that, I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I have three birth children.
“My eldest daughter has already said she wants to become a foster carer when she’s older and the younger one says she will explore fostering when her own children have grown up a bit. I feel with Jay that we are in the right place with the right people. They’ve got my back, I feel very well supported. That’s really important when you’re fostering because it can be tough. I’d recommend the agency to anyone.”
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. Visit your local independent fostering agency page for more information or get in touch using our form.