NFA Foster Carer Mick describes life in the military and its influence on his fostering adventure
Having served the British Army as part of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, including extensive tours of Gibraltar, Germany and many parts of the UK, you could forgive National Fostering Agency (NFA) foster carer Mick for seeking a quiet retirement.
However, some 20 years after retiring from military service, Mick and his wife have embarked on another benevolent undertaking of a very different kind.
Based in Peterborough, Mick and his wife had contemplated becoming foster carers for some time, before a chance encounter with a former army colleague changed everything.
“We were walking through the shopping area in Peterborough one day, then I heard somebody shout ‘Mick!’, said Mick.
‘I turned around and it was actually an ex-army colleague of mine who had been fostering with the NFA. We chatted for a bit and he mentioned that both him and his wife were now full-time foster carers’.
‘We spoke a bit more about the NFA and he gave us a contact number. Eve from the NFA came out to chat to us and we felt encouraged to explore the option at the very least”.
Taking those vital first steps
Making the commitment to care for someone else’s child is naturally a big life decision. This is why becoming a foster carer with one of our leading independent fostering agencies gives you access to an expert local support team inclusive of a dedicated supervising support worker (SSW).
Mick went on to explain how having such reassuring guidance throughout the assessment process helped build confidence in their decision and created the perfect platform for the Skills to Foster training sessions.
“Making that first phone call was significant for us’, Mick continued.
‘I actually quite enjoyed the assessment period. It was a good period of reflection to be honest with you’.
‘I felt that the supervising social worker that helped us complete our assessment, Rachel, was very good and she did it in a really open and friendly way’.
‘She wasn’t afraid to be challenged on certain things. This is quite important, because you can’t just sit there and agree with everything the whole time, it helps to get the point you are making across sometimes’.
‘I felt it was very useful. Then we went on the Skills to Foster course, which again I enjoyed because being ex-military means I am used to taking part in lots of training”.
Navigating the modern world of teenagers as a foster parent
Many foster carers part of the National Fostering Group describe the growing pressures faced by the youth of today, including concerns over body image, peer pressure and uncertainty about their futures as one of the main challenges of fostering in the 21st century.
Whether it’s carefully managing social media and phone use, or making sure that they arrive home at the time agreed, Mick explained how both him and his wife have come up with several methods to ensure foster family life with teenager Jay is as happy and comfortable as possible for everyone involved.
“I don’t know whether we feel guilty, but we keep telling people that we’ve been spoilt with Jay! He’s 16 and will be 17 in October’.
‘His only crime is not coming in on time on some occasions. But it’s important to reflect on this and put it into context with his overall behavior’.
‘We will never confront him about this as he comes in. We don’t raise the issue straight way, as he is expecting us to question him about it, which could lead to confrontation’.
‘We will wait until a later date, maybe the next day or the day after, and he might just talk about going out one night, after which we would say ‘Ah, that reminds me, you came in late the other night…’’
‘The one constant that he has had in his life is his social circle and his friends. That’s why we don’t want to say things like ‘Jay, your phone’s going off now’, as that then becomes a punishment.’
‘In that sense, it is about realising the stresses, strains and pressures teenagers are under today that I never had, so I have always tried to get my head around that side of it”.
Transferable military skills as an NFA foster carer
Self-discipline, calmness under pressure and de-escalating potential conflict are just some of the skills gained from his career in the military that Mick has been able to apply to his time as a foster carer.
After joining the army as a junior soldier at the tender age of 16, Mick was thrust into the highly organised schedule of army life. This defining moment was to set the tone for the moral values and principles that he has upheld throughout his career and taken forward into his personal life.
“You would go from the day before, getting out of bed whenever you wanted and getting dressed when you wanted.’
‘The following day was the start of military training, where you were waking up at 5am, standing by your bed and being taught how to iron and wash all of your kit, before eating at specified times and then going to bed again at the same time each evening”.
‘It does take a bit of getting used to, but after a while you think ‘this is very good, this is exactly what I need’, because it keeps you on the straight and narrow’.
Fostering ambitions and meeting challenges head on
Having been approved to foster a second child, Mick and his wife are working hard towards progressing their skills as foster carers through their local support groups and the free, specialist training they receive through the NFA.
Keen to make as much positive influence on the lives of vulnerable children and young people in the region as possible, Mick hopes they will be able to care for a younger child next time round.
“Essentially, we would like the time to be able to make as much impact as we can, and we would also like Jay to be involved as a bit of a role model for a younger child’.
‘Some of the things discussed in support groups make us think and reflect in terms of whether we have the skills to appropriately help and look after a child with more severe emotional or behavioural issues’.
“I will listen to stories at support groups of people looking after children who are biologically 14 years of age but present as three in terms of their learning and development. I would sometimes think ‘Wow, I could never do that’, but the chances are I probably could”.
“We want our next child to be of younger age, and if they did happen to have more complex issues than Jay did, we would now welcome that. It gives us a bit of a challenge and that is the only way we are going to grow as foster carers”.
Are you reading this and thinking that you want to find out more about fostering with us? Read our Becoming a Foster Carer page to see how you can start your fostering adventure today!