“I wish I’d done it sooner.” Soo shares her experience of fostering
Soo and her husband, Hugh, were Local Authority foster carers for five years until their decision to move to independent fostering agency, Fostering Solutions, part of National Fostering Group last year. They had always loved fostering but when they encountered a whole range of personal issues simultaneously, life became extremely challenging. Soo explained:
“Both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer, I started the menopause and our foster child – a girl of nine – started to show more challenging behaviours. There was an incident with a knife. We had twin baby girls living with us at the time and our foster child’s social worker went off long-term sick. It was very stressful and we didn’t feel well-supported so decided it was time to move.”
Soo was meticulous in researching the fostering opportunities locally. She spoke to other Local Authorities as well as seven independent fostering agencies before finally settling on Fostering Solutions. She explained why:
“They just nailed it. They came out to speak to us and answered all of our questions with great conviction. We felt confidence we would have the support and training we needed and we were right. The difference is fantastic. They are very responsive and if they can’t answer straight away they get back to you. They are our secure base and we’ve done all sorts of different training with them.”
Over the years, Soo and Hugh have looked after 20 foster children, young people and babies. Their current children are two sibling girls, aged two and four. Soo and Hugh have done therapeutic parenting training and fully embrace the principles, which include ‘connection before correction’, positive reinforcement and setting boundaries.
“A lot of the children who have come into our care don’t have good vocabulary and so can’t express themselves well. We’ve learned to look at their body language and read the signs in the best way we can. As a foster carer you need to let them know that we’ll be their base and not matter what they throw at us we’re not going anywhere. The first thing is to help them to connect with us and once that is in place, we can build on sorting out the issues they’re facing. If it’s a health issue, that’s different. We need to prioritise these and put in place what they need.”
Soo takes care to build relationships with birth parents wherever possible. She said:
“With one of our last placements – two siblings – it was highly likely that the children would go back home to their birth family and we were allowed to communicate with their mum and dad. It was great for all of us. The little girl was only five and asked how we knew her mum and dad. We said ‘it’s because we know you’. We were never negative about them. It’s better if they don’t see us as the enemy. It’s not always the right thing to do, but when you can it helps to break down a barrier.”
“There have been lows along the way but we try to treat it all as a learning curve. One of the hardest things is when the children move on and you have them in your heart but ironically this is also one of the greatest highs. You wave them off and you can see that they are happy. It’s such a difference from when they first came to you. It can feel like a low, in a selfish way, but it’s a high to see them in such a happy place. It’s not about us, it’s about them. Our role is to support them and help them reach their forever home whether that is being adopted or going back to their birth family. We’ve got them to where they should be and that’s great.”
Soo and Hugh valued being given a buddy during the assessment process. Soo said:
“She was great and we’re still in contact now. To anyone who might be thinking about fostering I’d say do it as there are always people there to support you. I can’t tell you how wonderful this job is, I wish I’d done it sooner.”
Has Soo inspired you to start your fostering adventure? Enquire today!