“Give them the tools for their future” Kate shares her experience of fostering.
In 2012, Kate was working with her sister-in-law running a childminding business. Her sister-in-law is a foster carer and Kate was inspired by seeing the change in the two young brothers that she was caring for at the time. She said:
“At first, they were in a really bad state as a result of neglect and abuse, but over time I could see what a difference she made in their lives by offering stability, cuddles, three meals a day…. And eventually they went on to be adopted. I thought, we’ve got a spare room, we could do that. I discussed it with my husband Steve and my daughter, who was nine at time. We applied in the January and were approved in July.”
In the eight years since they began fostering with the National Fostering Agency, part of National Fostering Group Kate and Steve have fostered more than 30 children, the longest for seven years and the shortest for a few months. They’ve also done parent and child fostering which Kate describes as “really more of a mentoring role”. She explained:
“With parent and child fostering, you are teaching someone how to be a parent when maybe they haven’t had very good role models and you act as an advocate for them as things are going through the court process. You have to be impartial as the reports you do can impact the outcome of the case.”
One of their first fostering experiences was with a group of three siblings. The two brothers went on to be adopted but the girl, who was 12 when she arrived, stayed with Kate and Steve for seven years. She completed school and college and now works in a care home and lives locally. They are still in touch. Kate said:
“It’s lovely that we helped her to develop the resilience to get on with her life. She only lives around the corner. We are in regular touch and she’s also in touch with her birth family. She’s had Covid twice and we helped to support her through it. Our daughter and our foster daughter go around to her flat sometimes to play Monopoly.”
Their current foster child – a girl of 17 – has been with them for three years. She’s the same age as their daughter and the young women get on extremely well. When she turns 18, she will be Staying Put to help her prepare for living independently as an adult.
Fostering is challenging and Kate acknowledges that they have not been able to make a difference to every single child in their care. She said:
“The biggest challenge is getting a foster child to trust you. What happens between the ages of 0-2 is crucial and this is when attachment issues can develop. We’ve found therapeutic parenting training to be really useful in looking at a child’s learned behaviour and trying to identify the need that lies beneath it.”
On the “horrible” days, Kate really values the support of other foster carers who she can pick up the phone to, as well as her Supervising Social Worker, Eve. She said:
“With parent and child fostering in particular, it can be really hard. You’re dealing with a parent and a baby and the courts and the Local Authorities. You live it all day long and sometimes you need to be able to take a breath. Talking to other foster carers can be great. We share in each other’s achievements and accolades as well as supporting everyone through the bad times. I’m looking forward to our support group starting again after Covid.”
Kate said she has learned a lot about herself since becoming a foster carer and urges anyone who is considering it to find out about it but “make sure you have plenty of support around you and if you have birth children always consider how they will cope with having to share you”. She said:
“Be available to listen, it can make a huge difference. Our role is not to fix the foster children who come into our care but to give them the tools for their future.”
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