“It’s an amazing thing to be able to do” Jenine shares her experience of fostering,
Jenine and Ben’s daughter was just five when they first become interested in fostering. They decided she was too young and they would revisit the idea when she was older. While she was at secondary school, their daughter initiated a conversation about fostering, prompted by the fact that her best friend, who was in foster care, was, sadly, experiencing a placement breakdown.
“She wanted us to foster her. We explained that it didn’t really work like that but it did make us think again about fostering. We decided we would take in European students to see how we found it having other children in our home. It went well and then we saw an ad for Brighter Futures, part of National Fostering Group Independent Fostering Agency and we applied to become foster carers. We were approved 12 years ago.”
Their first fostering experience was with a group of four siblings – three brothers and a girl of four with complex disabilities. Twelve years later, three of the siblings are still part of the family. The eldest boy – who is now 23 – chose to return to his birth family when he turned 17.
It has been a challenging adventure at times. Jenine said:
“One of the toughest things has been trying to get the services in place to support a child with complex disabilities. Our foster daughter has a rare genetic disorder. She is non-verbal with severe learning difficulties and mobility issues. When she first came to us she was tube-fed and doubly incontinent, with undiagnosed sight and hearing problems. It proved difficult to get the support she needed because she was classed as being out of area. I work in the NHS, I know which routes to take but still it was a battle to get her the funding and support she needed from the different therapeutic teams. Finally, though, we were able to get everything in place and she’s come on in leaps and bounds. When she first arrived she was frustrated at not being able to make herself understood. Now, she’s much calmer, she can sign and is able to get around the house without any problems. She is toilet trained and outside she uses a wheelchair or holds on to me. It is a much better quality of life for her.”
It was also a challenge to get her brothers the mental health support they needed for the same reasons, despite the best efforts of the family’s supervising social worker who made calls and wrote letters to the relevant authorities. Jenine is full of praise for their fostering agency:
“Whatever I want to do they will support it. I’m currently in the process of doing a Diploma in Therapeutic Parenting which they have funded. Alongside our three original foster children, who are now 19, 17 and 16, we have two other children, aged eight and nine, one of whom has complex developmental trauma. We receive lots of support to manage him and his behaviour which can be very challenging at times.”
Their foster daughter will remain living with them when she turns 18 under the Shared Lives adult services scheme. Jenine said:
“This is their home, their life. They came straight to us following the care order and have not been anywhere else, except for their brother who, sadly, has not done too well since he decided to return to his birth family.
“For me one of the greatest rewards of fostering is seeing how well our disabled foster daughter has progressed while she has been with us. After just nine months her pathway plan changed significantly due to the progress she was making. Her brother who was seven when he came to us is now a soldier in the British Army. Their younger brother is still at school and is doing well.”
Jenine works as a peer mentor for other foster carers, including newly-approved carers or those going through difficult times.
Her advice to would-be foster carers?
“Do it. It’s an amazing thing to be able to do. When you see children come to you who’ve had a bad time, it can be really challenging. I say to all new foster carers don’t be afraid to say no. It has to be right for you.”
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