FCF – Sue’s Story

“The most rewarding role you will ever have” Sue shares her experience of fostering.

Sue used to work at a riding school for disabled and disadvantaged children. One particular day always stuck in her mind:

“At the end of this half-day session, one little girl came up to me and said ‘Thank you. I don’t go out much because my mummy takes drugs and my daddy drinks a lot and this has been the best day of my life’. It really touched me and made me think about how I could help children on a one-to-one basis. I began making enquiries about fostering with independent fostering agencies and Local Authorities.”

One of the agencies Sue contacted was Family Placement, part of National Fostering Group. They sent a representative out to talk to her and husband, Kev. They liked what the agency had to say, in particular the support and training that it offered and the fact that someone is on hand 24/7 to provide help and advice. Sue and Kev applied and were approved as foster carers in 2014.

Their first foster child – a teenage boy of 14 – had challenging behaviour and was excluded from school. After much effort, Sue was able to secure a place for him at a local college two days a week, along with a day at a riding school and another two days in a special school. Sadly, though, he got in with the wrong crowd and one day he absconded from school and was picked up by the police. The boy couldn’t stay with them anymore because he was at high risk. He went on to stay with two further families and wanted to return to Sue and Kev but, by then, they had another foster child and could not take him. Now 21, he is still in touch with the family and is living independently and holding down a job.

Sue and Kev’s current foster child was six when he arrived and is now 13. He is on the autistic spectrum and was almost non-verbal when he came. He had been separated from his two sisters due to high levels of aggression. Sue said:

“Seven years on, he has overcome all of that and is an amazing young man. He is in mainstream school and is doing really well in all of his subjects. He has a good relationship with everyone in our family and will be with us long-term. His ambition is to become a palaeontologist and we will support him all the way.”

Asked how she feels about their fostering adventure, Sue said:

“I love it. On a personal level I’ve learned so many new skills and I love having the opportunity to provide support and stability to vulnerable children to help them start to thrive. Of course, there are many challenges too. It can be difficult to manage the behaviour sometimes but it’s important to understanding that it isn’t aimed at you. Often, they don’t really understand what has happened to them. Their home life was their home life, no matter how bad it was, it’s what was familiar. My house is clean and tidy and the bedding smells clean and that can feel unnatural to some foster children. Birth families can also be a challenge when you are fostering. Sometimes they make unreasonable demands but they are feeling it too, like the foster child, and you need to remember that.”

Sue praises the support from Family Placement as “second to none”. She said:

“Our supervising social worker is in regular weekly contact and they are on the end of the phone if ever we need help. I’ve had so much training, it’s been fantastic – everything from safeguarding to dealing with challenging behaviour. It means I feel more equipped to understand the children and the way they behave.”

Sue and Kev have three birth children – all boys – who had all left home by the time they began fostering. They young men have a good relationship with their foster child and serve as a positive role model for him.

Sue said:

“I’m passionate about fostering and foster children. If you’re considering it, speak to foster carers, find out as much as you can about the agency. You need to be prepared to be flexible and adapt your life to the needs of your foster child. You need patience, love, humour. Take every bit of training that is offered to you. Love the children unconditionally even if they don’t love you back. Do it, it is the most rewarding role you will ever have in your life.”

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