When asked the question, “what qualities make a good carer?”, I think back over the past 14 years and the 23 children’s lives we have touched and wonder “did we really make any difference?”
Sure, we can keep them safe from harm and provide them with basic necessities but has our input really helped to turn their lives around? I’ve heard of the odd success story but sadly, in our experience, the answer is no! All that application of knowledge of attachment theory, behavioural analysis, managing behaviour, safer caring (the list goes on and on) and our efforts seem to make little difference in the lives of these afflicted children. What a depressing thought I hear you gasp!
You see, I write this at a time when an ex foster child of ours, now 26, finds himself living in a bed sit with no food or furniture, having just narrowly escaped jail time for ABH and having succumbed to the temptation of drugs and alcohol and I ask myself, “Did our two years of intervention help to turn his life around?” The evidence would certainly suggest not which in turn leads me to question “are we good carers?”
The answer to this I think would have to be No, I don’t think we are good carers. I KNOW we are and I know this because whenever this young man gets himself into trouble, he calls us for help and at the end of every phone call he tells us that he loves us.
Having attended his recent court case I later received the following text messages from him:
“I hope you don’t mind I have nominated you for a fostering excellence award. Thank you so much guys for everything you have done to help me get right…..Again”
His nomination read:
“Wayne and Sharon always go above and beyond anything anybody could ever expect. Here we are with a great relationship 11 years after me leaving their care. My reason for the nomination is I have gone through a rocky patch recently resulting in heavy use of drugs and alcohol to cope with feelings that have been festering in me. Suicide contemplation, court appearances and just hitting rock bottom in general, they have been there to hold me together when I have been at my lowest. They have been here for me whenever I needed someone to lean on even if it means them driving 150 miles to where I now live. They are the most selfless, warm hearted, down to earth people I know and I am proud to say that I have friends like them. Thank you, guys”.
Needless to say, I was so touched I couldn’t read it out loud to my wife without getting choked.
You might say “well he only lived with you for two years” but another of our children who lived with us for seven years also finds himself in similar circumstances, living out of a hostel with little prospects and his first child on the way!
Surely one would expect that given ‘good care’, seven years would be sufficient time to bring about positive outcomes for him, but this doesn’t seem to be the case so I ask again, “did we provide good care?”
It doesn’t take me long to come to the same conclusion. Had we provided anything but good care, he wouldn’t be telling us now that he regretted leaving and we certainly wouldn’t have been top of his list of people with whom to share the news about him becoming a father.
So in summary, now when I think about what makes a “good carer”, I think less about working towards changing their lives and more about supporting them through their own. Many have tried over the years to convince us that we let our children get away with too much, they need to be told what to do and how to do it, to behave appropriately. Maybe, had we adopted these ideals rather than just being there to pick them up each time they fell their outcomes would be better than they are today.
This we will never know but I am quite confident that had we taken this approach they would not look back on their time with us with such fond memories and now as grown-ups, recognise the value of the time they spent with us and it is this that I hope will improve the chances of a more positive outcome for the next generation.
People who become foster carers come from all walks of life, so they bring diverse and valuable experiences of parenting. If you think you might have the skills to be a good carer, get in touch.