“The best thing I’ve ever done” Geoff shares his experience of fostering
While on holiday in Turkey with his partner, Stephen, Geoff picked up a book that someone had left on the hotel foyer for others to read. It was to change their life. The book was Broken by Rosie Lewis, the story of a foster carer’s support for a nine-year-old boy and his five-year-old sister.
Geoff said: “I couldn’t put it down. It inspired me to want to foster. As soon as we got back from holiday, we enquired about becoming foster carers. It was something we’d had in the back of our minds for about five years but the book was the catalyst for us to start the applications process.”
They weighed up whether to apply to become Local Authority foster carers or to apply to an independent fostering agency. Ultimately, they opted for independent foster care agency, Fostering Solutions, part of National Fostering Group because of the level of support and training that was offered. Geoff said:
“Right from the start, they made us feel very special, like what we were doing was really worthwhile. When you feel valued, you’re inspired to do the best you possibly can. It was back in 2015 that we applied and throughout our fostering adventure they’ve been there to support us. If we encounter any issues, they can provide training, if any of the children need help they are there straight away and a supervising social worker is on hand 24/7 to provide support.”
Geoff and Stephen have completed many different training courses, from Sexual Exploitation through to Attachment Trauma. They are part of the monthly Foster Carer Forum and have buddied aspiring foster carers through the applications process and supported them to attend their first forum meeting.
Geoff said: “We offer the same support that we got when we first applied. It’s a really good system that helps people through the process and makes them feel part of a supportive group.”
Geoff and Stephen foster a boy who was nine when he first came to them. An early incident, which could have ended in tragedy, helped to cement the bond between them. Geoff said:
“He’d been with us for about two weeks when I was driving with him in the car back from Manchester. We hit a freak flood caused by Storm Desmond and our car was washed into the river. I had to climb with him out of the window to safety and the river washed the car away. When we got back home, our house was flooded and we had to move into a holiday let for six months.”
This shocking incident was the start of building trust with a troubled child who’d had a traumatic start to life and a turbulent time with five different sets of foster carers. After about a year, the boy ran away from school, as he often did. This time the police were called and the school phoned Geoff to say the boy was waiting to be collected from the headmaster’s office. When the headmaster (“a lovely man”) asked the boy what he expected to happen next he replied “Geoff and Stephen will get rid of me”. Geoff said:
“I told him ‘you’re not going anywhere, you’re stuck with us’. This was a turning point for him. Since then he’s gone from strength to strength. He did his SATS and went up to big school. He told us he wouldn’t need any support in year 7 and there would be no more ‘blips’. He’s now in year 10 and he’s top in all of his subjects. He’s starting his GCSEs and is predicted all As. He’s hoping to do Modern History at university. He’s with us long-term and has a certificate on his wall to say he’ll always be part of our family. He’s represented England in judo and is in the police cadets.
“He has flourished because of the love and security we provide. That is fostering’s biggest reward. There are so many children coming into care each month. If you can help even one of them, that’s massive. If everyone who’s ever thought about fostering could do this just think what a difference it would make! They just need a chance. I spent 35 years in the army and this is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
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