Jane and Michael have fostered with Fostering Solutions Merseyside since 2010. In this time, they have cared for 7 children on a long term basis, and provided additional support for other families by providing respite for 6 children. With both of them staying at home full time, they have worked as a team to change the life of these children for the better. From looking after new born babies they’ve collected from the hospital, to support through the teenage years to independence, Jane and Michael have provided a loving, settled home to children of all ages.
Prior to fostering Jane worked as a manger in a retail store. “I’d met a lady who was a foster carer when I was around 22, and it had always been on my mind ever since. After talking to Mike, we decided to wait until the children were old enough to understand. When we first started looking seriously, our youngest was 12. We’d looked at our local authority first but they really put us off fostering when we spoke to them. I then had a chat with another Fostering Solutions carer in Liverpool and have never looked back. We’re a great team, and Mike’s amazing with the children. I wish we’d done it sooner.” Although they thought that their lack of experience may be a barrier to them fostering, having raised 4 children of their own they had much more experience than they realised. “Our assessing social worker was brilliant. She really opened our eyes in the assessment and gave us lots of encouragement. The assessment was quite intense, but it’s clear that they need this information so that they know who they are placing children with. It was a real eye-opener for us though, as our social worker didn’t sugar coat anything – it really prepared us for fostering.”
Since being approved at panel 10 years ago, Jane and Mike have supported all ages. “Our first children were a 7-month old baby and her 5-year-old sister. We were terrified before they arrived. We didn’t think we’d take babies and so we had nothing prepared. Their Mum was great to work with and really worked with us, they went back to her in the end. They were lovely little girls and it really was the right choice for them. Not long after they left, we had 2 boys come to stay with us. Callum was 9 when he joined our family, is still with us today, and moved onto the Staying Put Scheme with us after turning 18. Louis was 7, and recently moved on to live independently in his own flat. When they arrived, it was obvious they’d been severely neglected both emotionally and physically. They needed a huge amount of attention, and it actually affected our relationship with our youngest son too. As they couldn’t join us on holiday to start with, and we already had one booked, the boys went into respite whilst we went away with our son. It gave him a chance to have some one-to-one time with us and tell us how he was feeling, it was difficult for him sharing us even though he had older siblings. It made the two of us re-focus our efforts and we came back better and stronger for it. We were much better at managing the household and giving attention to everyone from then on.” Jane and Michael’s birth children were aware from the start that they could say they wanted to stop fostering if it was too difficult for them, but 10 years on and they all offer lots of support to their parents.
Jane has found fostering like a rollercoaster at times with lots of ups and downs. “Louis was with us from the age of 7, and he’d always been the nicest lad. It was a pleasure to look after him and he had a really tight bond with Mike – he really looked up to him. He wasn’t what you’d imagine when you think of teenagers in care, with good grades at school, attending the local marine cadets, and he even had a tidy bedroom. He was always quite proud and made sure he was looking tidy both in his looks and his room. The link with his family though was just too strong at times. He got back in touch with his Dad about a year ago and started to gravitate back towards his family. He’d sneak out to be with them at night, go missing for days at a time sometimes. He also started to have a few criminal tendencies having been influenced by his Dad. He’d always come back after a few days realising why he was living with us in the first place. It started to get a bit much, and he was giving a choice about what he wanted to do – he was old enough by then to make his own choices. Although he moved back to Dad to start with, he realised it wasn’t the right decision after a couple of weeks and is now living in his own flat. We’ll always be here for him.” Having cared for Louis long term, Jane and Michael will always have a bond with him. They also gave him the skills needed for independence, and the confidence to make his own decisions.
When Callum first arrived with Jane and Michael he really struggled – both academically and emotionally. “Callum couldn’t read or write when he first came to us. He was very dyslexic and hated school. As his foster carers we fought to get him an Education, Health, and Care Plan so we could access extra support and funding for him in school. He was involved in all of these meetings, so we could make sure he was getting the support he wanted as well as needed. It was such a lovely moment when he passed all his GCSE’s and got into college. I’ll always remember him saying thank you, and that he couldn’t have done it without us. Callum worked really hard when he got into college too. By the end of his Uniformed Services course, he passed most modules with a distinction and he’s now waiting to join the army.” Children in care can sometimes struggle with their emotions too. “When Callum and Louis first joined us, neither liked hugs. We’d ask if they wanted a hug when they were down, but even if they said yes they were still quite tense. Callum took the longest to be accepting of that love, but it was an amazing feeling two years down the line when he gave us a genuine hug back and told us he loved us. It felt amazing.” Although it was a long journey to get to this point, the boys built up enough trust to feel like part of the family.
Not all children manage well in care, and some will act up on purpose. “Luke was the most challenging child we cared for. He was with us for 2 years, and although the first 10 months was great, a new social worker changed everything. The social worker would let him get away with anything and when we told him no, his meltdowns would last for days. 4 months after the new social worker started, Luke said he wanted to go back to St Helens where his siblings were. He was told he could and that they’d sort it, but in the end it took 10 months to find him a new foster home. Our social worker was amazing at supporting us in that time, and we stood by him to make it a smooth transition, but it wasn’t easy on our family at all. He’d act up on purpose to try and get us to quit, and it was really difficult at times. He cried when we said goodbye in the end.” It’s important to stand by the children, even when they are actively making a choice to want to be somewhere else, and the smooth transition will have helped Luke to settle with his new carers.
After their first baby, Jane said they wouldn’t do little one’s again. “We’d found it difficult having a baby in the house again, and so we’d settled on taking older children. We got the call on a Sunday to take Amanda, she had nowhere else to go and was only 18 months at the time. We couldn’t see her left without a bed and so, of course we said yes. A few months later, we were told Mum was expecting a baby and would we consider keeping the girls together. After saying yes, we didn’t hear any more so it was quite a shock when the hospital called us to come and collect Natalie. We ended up staying at the hospital for 3 hours letting Mum say goodbye. Amanda is almost 3 now, and Natalie is 10 months old. They’ve brought a lot of joy into our lives since living with us, and it’s been nice to have little ones in the house again. We are so tired though as Natalie is teething at the minute, but as long as they are happy, we’re happy.”
Jane and Michael told us the support they receive is excellent. “Our social worker really goes above and beyond. We’ve had a couple of different social workers and they’ve been excellent. The training is really good too.” Although they’ve been fostering for a while now, Jane and Michael wouldn’t change a thing. “Fostering isn’t for the faint hearted, but it’s the most rewarding and emotional job I’ve ever done. We’ve grown as individuals, learning from the children, and we’ve grown as a family – we consider them to be our children rather than foster children. They really are part of the family.”
If you’ve been inspired by Jane and Michael’s story, get in touch with us today and the team will be in touch to tell you more about fostering with Fostering Solutions Merseyside.
*The names of the children throughout this story have been changed to protect their identity.