Anthony and Nathan have been fostering in the Rotherham area for three years. While committed to the foster children in their care, they admit that, at times, it has been a challenge and the support and training offered by National Fostering Group has made a huge difference.
Straight into a long-term placement
Anthony first became interested in fostering when he was aged 17. He was working with a not-for-profit organisation supporting children facing exclusion from school.
“A lot of these children were from difficult backgrounds, their families weren’t so great and I thought I’d like to create better opportunities for kids like this. I thought I could really give it my all.”
Still quite young, he wanted to be more settled before giving serious consideration to the idea of fostering. Now 33, he is married to Nathan, 28. They began the application process four years ago after discussing the idea of fostering for a couple of years.
Since they were approved as foster carers, they have cared for two siblings, now in their teens. The couple have just gone to Fostering Panel to get long-term placement status so the foster children can remain in their care until they are 18.
Positives outweigh negatives
Anthony admits that fostering was a “shock to the system” at first. “These children have had a tough time, their behaviour can be very difficult. Until you’re living it and dealing with it 24/7 you don’t grasp how hard it can be.
“It put a strain on us as a couple and on our wider family. Our families are as invested in the idea of fostering as we are but seeing us going through a tough time was really hard on them, too.”
Despite this, Anthony is adamant that the positives far outweigh any negatives.
“You see young people who’ve come from a crappy place, often with no real social skills, start to grow in confidence, put down roots in their new family and community, make friends, thrive. It is astounding.
“When our two first came to us they didn’t want to interact with other children, in part due to lack of confidence, and in part because that is what they were used to.
“Now they are happy to join clubs and get involved in activities with young people of their own age. It feels like we’ve given them their childhood back and that feels amazing.”
Fostering in Rotherham
Anthony and Nathan are foster carers in Doncaster, 25 minutes from Rotherham and find it a positive experience, as there are plenty of things to do with children and young people.
“We take our two to lots of different activities like sports halls, youth clubs, swimming, dancing, football. Hatfield Marine is close by with a lake and campsite and climbing walls and we like to go camping.”
It wasn’t a conscious choice to go with National Fostering Agency, an independent foster agency, rather than local authority, but they just felt more at ease and comfortable with their local fostering agency from the start.
“Right from the get-go, they were personable and friendly and we felt natural with them. They seemed to be genuinely interested in our experiences and what we had to offer. The person who came to do the initial assessment with us was chilled and down to earth and that matched our personalities. It felt like the natural path to take.”
Support and training ‘kept us going’
The placement hasn’t always been plain sailing and the local team has provided extra support and training to give the couple the tools they need to deal with difficult situations.
“This has been extremely helpful,” said Anthony. “Without the training we’d have given up long ago. In particular, the de-escalation training has helped us understand how to calm difficult situations.
“At one point we were facing a bit of a crisis. The agency called a meeting with everyone involved and it changed everything. We learned how to spot signs and triggers and what to do to bring the mood back down in a very child-focused way. This has been so helpful”
Now, rather than inappropriate learned behaviours, they are mostly dealing with “normal teenage stropping – it’s quite a turnaround.”
For anyone considering fostering, Anthony has these words of advice:
“It won’t all be sunshine and roses but if you are determined and resilient you will get through. Don’t go into it naively. Make sure you do your research, speak to as many people as you can, get different perspectives. My best advice is prepare for the worst and be realistic in your expectations. The positives you get from it are brilliant. We have absolutely no regrets.”