Charmaine had grown up in a large family and had always been interested in fostering.
“There are so many children out there who need a loving home and a family and to feel cared for,” she explained. “At the time – back in 2018 – we had no children of our own and a house with a spare bedroom. Chris knew I’d always wanted to foster and he said we should find out about it, so we did.”
Initially, Charmaine and Chris approached their Local Authority but found that their age and the fact they hadn’t lived in their house for very long put them at a disadvantage. So, they began to explore fostering with independent agencies. They were impressed by the levels of support and training offered by the National Fostering Agency so applied to them and were approved in October 2018.
After providing respite for one child and emergency support for another, their first full-time foster child – a boy of nine – arrived in January 2019. Now aged 13, he still lives with them and has become their long-term foster child. He was joined by Charmaine and Chris’ first birth child in August 2021.
Seeing the change in their foster child since he first arrived has been the biggest reward for Charmaine and Chris. Charmaine said:
“He had experienced trauma and neglect as a young child. He was fiercely competitive if we played games and would get deeply upset and angry if he didn’t win. At school he was a long way behind the other children academically and his attendance record was poor. Now, three years on, he attends school regularly and his grades are steadily improving. He is more settled and is going to be staying with us long-term. We can have games nights now without him getting upset if he doesn’t win. Things can still get rocky, but he’s achieved some great milestones – even small things like when he described himself as our son and the baby as his brother.”
Being so young when they began their fostering journey has had advantages and disadvantages in Charmaine’s opinion.
“We can relate to the foster children and have a greater understanding of things like technology and gaming than some of the older foster carers. However, being close in age to some of the young people can also be a drawback as they may be more likely to see us as friends rather than authority figures which can make parenting difficult. We’ve never really experienced that with our current foster child, to be honest, although he sometimes struggles to know what to say if people ask if we are his mum and dad. We describe ourselves as his ‘step-in’ mum and dad.”
Charmaine and Chris would like to see more foster carers of all ages coming forward and are keen to make people aware of the rewards and challenges of fostering. Both of them are experienced in working as support workers for adults with autism so they are well-equipped to care for vulnerable young people. However, unlike their day jobs, foster caring is 24/7. Charmaine said:
Fostering is so rewarding but you can’t walk away from situations as it is in your home and that can be quite intense. We manage this by being careful not to take on more than we feel equipped to handle. It’s important to have a good support network, too, as fostering can be quite stressful. We had some tricky times when the new baby came along but our social worker and fostering agency were brilliant. It has been a really positive experience for us.
If you feel inspired, find out more using our Can I Foster? tool or get in touch. As our foster carers say, it’s one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you can do. We also have another great story on Zoe and Tom who are also young carers, they cared for their own siblings which inspired them to become foster carers.