“An incredible adventure” Harry shares his experience of fostering.
Harry used to work as a project manager for British Gas. He also volunteers as a panel member for the Children’s Hearing system – the Scottish equivalent of the English court system for children in care – which means hearing at first-hand about the plight of children and young people in the care system.
So, when the National Fostering Agency visited his workplace on a recruitment drive for foster carers, he was immediately interested to find out more. Harry said:
“I knew what an impact going into care could have on a child’s life and I wanted to find out more about fostering. I looked into the different routes into it – Local Authority and independent fostering agency – and decided to apply to the National Fostering Agency, part of National Fostering Group. It was the level of support and training that swung it for me. I’d never been a foster carer before and didn’t have a great deal of experience with children and young people so all of the training and the 24/7 support from a supervising social worker was very appealing.”
Harry was approved as a foster carer two and a half years ago and is now a foster dad to two boys, aged eight and 15. He was made redundant from his job with British Gas a year ago and now has a part-time job working with children and is studying for a degree in Social Care alongside fostering. He jokes:
“If you’d said to me six years ago I’d be doing this, I’d have laughed. Then I was a full-time project manager and used to joke that I didn’t want children anywhere near me. Now I’m surrounded by children all of the time and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
His first foster child was six when he arrived. Harry said:
“He’d had a horrendous upbringing and then had been moved around from one place to another. He was underweight and lagging behind his peers in just about everything, from learning to life skills. He was isolated and lacked confidence. I won’t say it’s been a bed of roses, there have been some real lows, but two and a half years on with love and attention, the difference is amazing. He is incredible. He refers to me as ‘dad’ by his own choice and calls my parents gran and granddad. He is settled at school and there is almost a glow about him as he’s found somewhere he belongs and is loved and cared for.”
Last year, the boy became permanent with Harry and another foster child – a boy of 15 – who came into his care under an emergency. The two boys have bonded well and share an understanding of how it feels to grow up in care.
Harry admits that sometimes fostering as a single person can be hard, particularly alongside working and studying. He said:
“I’ve got good friends around me as well as other foster carers. My supervising social worker, Gillian, is great. She’s seen and experienced a lot of the challenges we encounter and if she doesn’t have the answer, she can put me in touch with someone who does. Actually, she doesn’t just care about me as a foster carer but as a complete person. I had a bereavement recently and she’s been fantastic.”
Harry acknowledges that sometimes the behaviours of foster children can be challenging but advises would-be foster carers:
“Don’t let it scare you. It’s not their fault, they’ve probably experienced some pretty horrific things during their life. Deep down they just need someone to be there for them and it’s so rewarding when you see a child who was in a bad place become happy and content. It’s the ordinary things – receiving a Father’s Day card, getting a thank you – that are some of the greatest rewards. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. It takes patience but it’s an incredible adventure.”
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