“Think About What You’ve Done For Them” Carol Shares Her Experience of Fostering
Carol was still at school when she first become interested in fostering. One of the girls in her class told her that she came from another country and that she had no mum and dad and was fostered. Carol said:
“I didn’t know what fostering meant at the time but she spoke so highly of her foster mum and dad and that always stayed with me. I couldn’t imagine being taken away from my mum and dad and placed with strangers. Years later when I was married to Paul and our children were growing up, we spoke about becoming foster carers.”
That was nine years ago. Carol and Paul have fostered 19 children so far one of whom – a little boy with Downs Syndrome – they went on to adopt. Carol said:
“Fostering is challenging. It’s not like looking after your own children. We had one girl who used to run away all the time. I love the bones of her, but we couldn’t get her to comply with the rules. We took her on holiday with us to the caravan once and she promised not to run away. That week, she joined in with all of the activities and came back when we asked her to. She said afterwards it was one of the best weeks of her life, she said ‘I’ve been allowed to be a child’. While she was with us, we were able to talk things through with her and teach her to respect her body, which was a big thing after the abuse she’d suffered.”
Carol believes one of the most important things a foster care needs to be able to do is listen. She said:
“Listen, try to understand, don’t judge. It’s very tough sometimes and it can be heart-breaking. The first little girl who came to us, was six but she was so neglected she was wearing age 2-3 clothes. I spent the first evening nit combing her hair and putting it into plaits and washing her uniform. They didn’t recognise her at school the next day. When we went to the park, she was frightened to go on the swing. The first time she plucked up courage to go on it, it was wonderful. She climbed onto the swing and just sat there frozen solid.”
What gets Carol through the difficult times is “tears and my family and talking to other people who’ve been through it”. The family moved to the National Fostering Agency, part of National Fostering Group three years ago after starting with a different independent fostering agency. Carol said:
“It was the best thing we ever did. We went through a really, really tough time when one of the foster children in our care died unexpectedly. The agency was out of this world. Everyone from the most senior manager downwards did whatever they could to support us – we had cards, letters, counselling, they were on the end of the phone whenever we needed them. We would never go anywhere else.”
Her advice to anyone considering becoming a foster carer is:
“Do it. You have to have patience, to be able to listen, you need a sense of humour. When the children go it’s like a bereavement, it can be really hard no matter how much training you have.
They’ve been part of your family. But you have to think about what you’ve done for them – how they were when they came to you and how they were when they left and what you did while they were with you.”
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