As told by Vince himself
Foster care is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve been living with Jennifer and Michael for a few years now and, thanks to them, I’ve learnt how to be a happy, responsible young man. But it wasn’t always easy.
When I was 14, I left my mum to go into care. She’d always had a lot of difficulties and found it hard having to cope with looking after me. Ever since I was born, there’d been social workers trying to help us out. But it wasn’t working. When I reached school age I was quite disruptive because I didn’t see the point of it. So when I was 10, they moved me from regular school to a small educational support unit.
I loved my mum but knew I knew I had to leave. So when I was at a Children’s Hearing, I asked if I could live with a foster family. They said I could, but then I got worried. What if I didn’t like the people I ended up with?
I met Jennifer and Michael soon after. They lived in an area I knew, which was a big relief because I was scared of leaving everything behind.
The day I moved in, we got to know each other a little bit and Jennifer cooked us dinner. They realised I only had the clothes I was wearing so said we’d go shopping the next day. It felt strange sleeping in a new bed, but I got used to it quickly. We did go shopping the next day, Michael and me. That was the start of our relationship, and the start of an amazing friendship.
Michael has a great sense of humour. He really makes me laugh. The jokes he tells aren’t actually that funny, but he thinks they are! With Jennifer it’s different. She’s more stern about the household chores, which annoyed me at first. But I’m glad she was persistent, because those skills come in really handy now!
With the help of my new foster family, I eventually came to realise that people weren’t out to get me. Teachers and social workers wanted to help, not make things harder. It didn’t happen overnight, but my behaviour settled down at the education unit, I stopped getting suspended, and my attendance rose to 100%. And the most impressive part? My teachers decided I could go back to mainstream education part time – something no other pupil had ever achieved!
Michael and Jennifer encouraged me to start thinking about what I wanted for my future, and with the help of my teachers, we came up with a career plan. I’d always wanted to join the army so secured a placement on a Kickstart Course.
After passing literacy and maths tests, as well as the British Army Recruit Battery test, I was ready to start Pre Army 1 Training. I was so excited to be starting and Michael and Jennifer said they couldn’t be more proud.
The army sergeant who ran the Pre Army 1 course was really inspiring and gave me lots of advice and support. He also gave me a glass trophy and a mountain bike when I finished the course because I’d been the top student that year. I celebrated with my foster family and we had yet more chats about what I wanted from life.
Ever since I moved in, Michael has always encouraged me to go for what I want and not settle for second best. Over time it really sank in and now I have the confidence to reject things that aren’t right for me. So when I was accepted into the army, I said no to the infantryman and cook roles they tried to sign me up to. I wanted to be an electrician, so I took a Communications Systems Operator role that would start me off in the right direction.
I’m due to start basic training soon, based in Harrogate with the Royal Corps of Signals. I’ll miss Michael and Jennifer when I’m away, but they’ve said I can spend all my home leaves at their house. It’s my home now. But I also look forward to putting money aside each month for my own place and my own transport. I never knew where I’d be staying when I was a child, so it’s important to me to get it right. I want the stability and security that I realised I deserved from living with Michael and Jennifer.
As I said, fostering has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve had a pair of amazing role models to guide me. I’ve never been happier. I’d never had a man in my life to look up to until Michael. And Jennifer’s discipline has helped mould me into who I am today.
To Jennifer and Michael: I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for you. You gave me a future. Cheers!
Army Families and Fostering- Can they foster?
There is a common misconception that army families are not able to foster due to the nature of their work requiring them to be posted around the UK. However, the NFA have some successful fostering army families, and here is the inspiring story of one of these families.
Danny and Lisa were approved as foster carers for the NFA seven years ago while they were living at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. We recruited this lovely family at the Aldershot Army Show where we had a recruitment stall. Lisa and Danny are passionate about fostering and over the years have gained a great deal of experience, finding fostering to be a very rewarding career.
Growing up Lisa always considered being a foster carer, she had a real passion to support children. When she and Danny were married, they spoke about fostering, and thought it would work well with their family.
Here’s what Lisa says about fostering:
“Initially we were concerned about how fostering would work with being in the army, as we had several moves over the years. Our Supervising Social Worker reassured us that with the National Fostering Agency, our moves would not impact on our placements, as we could foster children from all over the country. We are used to moving, and having to fit in with new communities, so in a way we can really empathise and identify with the children who we care for, as they have to leave their homes, their families and friends and make a start in a new community.
“The army are aware that we foster, as we have had to gain permission to foster in MOD accommodation. They have been supportive of us fostering, and we have not experienced any difficulty with this.
“We have been fostering for 6 years, during this time we have supported young people and children with various needs and issues, including issues of abuse, specific health needs and parental mental health. Some children have been rehabilitated to birth families, and some have moved on for independence. We have really enjoyed fostering, and the level of support that we can offer the children in our care. Both Danny and I value the relationships that we have made with the young people, and the positive impact we have on their lives in a short space of time.
“When fostering you have to have an open mind and accept that you will not always have all the information about a child at times, but it will eventually come. We have always ensured that we spend individual time with a child placed to find out their likes, dislikes and hobbies.
“We like to make children feel that they are an important part of our family, and that they have a say. We hold family meetings, and everyone’s voice has equal importance. We expect children to all make an equal contribution to the running of the household, whether this is walking the dog, or helping with clearing up after dinner. Make sure that you have the correct support in place through your Supervising Social Worker, they are an important link with the child’s Social Worker and other professionals.”
Lisa and Danny are a fantastic example of how well fostering can work in an army family, and how supportive the armed forces have been in helping facilitate their fostering work. The system has worked seamlessly as the couple moved, allowing them to have a positive influence on the lives of many children nationwide in a short period of time.
If you feel inspired by Vince, Lisa and Danny’s stories and would like to find out more about fostering whilst in the army, contact the NFA by calling 0800 044 3030, or email us at email@example.com