Lauren and Sian have been foster carers with Fostering Solutions since February 2018. For the last two years, they have been supporting 2 children who were 3 and 6 when they arrived. Now 5 and 8, the children are thriving in the care of Lauren and Sian, and as a result they have offered support to other carers in their area, providing respite where needed and going out on days out with other fostering families.
Fostering is a big decision to make, but for Lauren it was something she had always wanted to do. “I supported my Mum to look after three children for a family friend. When I met Sian we spoke about fostering as I knew it was always something I had wanted to do, but Sian had never in a million years thought we’d be able to. We thought only the elite could foster – those who were financially rich and able to quit work to look after the children full time. We knew we couldn’t run a house if one of us was out of work, so when we found out you could get an allowance to support the children we knew it was the right thing to do.” They reminisced about how they could have gone into it a lot earlier, but waited until they were financially stable to do so, to ensure they could give the children they cared for the best.
Before fostering, Lauren was working in a warehouse. “It just ended up being the right time to foster. I’d had a workplace injury, so couldn’t go back into the same work. We were financially stable, had our own house, and it just seemed like the right time to do it. We rang Fostering Solutions in the September, after they were recommended by a friend, and one of the social workers came out to do our home visit.” Lauren and Sian laughed as they remember “the house was upside down”. Sian told us “we were in the middle of renovating, which was finished by the end of the month, but we thought it looked really bad on us.” They spent the next few months having visits from their assessing social worker as they completed their Form F, attending training sessions with other potential foster carers, and in the following February, they attended panel and were approved as foster carers with Fostering Solutions.
Sian works full time in a school. “We always said Lauren would be the one to stay home with the children, as I get more time at home working in a school anyway. I provide low-level support for families who are struggling to raise their children. This stops children immediately being taken into care, as it gives families a chance to improve and work with us before social services has to step in.” Due to the nature of Sian’s work, she wouldn’t be able to get last minute time off if needed. With Lauren at home to attend meetings and training, it also means she is available if the school call with an issue. “The priority is always to be there when the children need us, even if that is whilst at school. If one of the children is ill, I’m always available to pick them up and make sure they are ok. Now that we’re fostering, it’s the same as any normal family – priorities change. The children become the most important part of your life and your needs come second. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
When the children first arrived, it was very different to how the family is now. Lauren and Sian told us how much life has changed in the last two years. “When they first arrived, everyone had written Amelia off. We were told she wouldn’t pass her phonics at the end of the year, and wasn’t predicted to pass her Year 2 or Year 6 SATS either. She was at the same level at Lewis, so 3 years younger than her peers. She’s worked so hard in the last 2 years, and she was third in her class for the phonics screening, and passed her Year 2 SATS above average for her age. She is really excelling compared to when she arrived with us. She’s changed in her personality as well. Amelia was really withdrawn, and very quiet. Now she’s full of sass and always excitable, loves learning and school, and is just a much happier child. She even has a best friend now, something she hasn’t had before. She’d always gravitate to whoever showed her any interest and attention, and it’s so nice to see her with a best friend who comes over all the time.”
Children can also physically change when in foster care. “When Lewis arrived he couldn’t walk, couldn’t speak and was very overweight for a three-year-old. Now he’s much healthier, enjoys exercise, and won every race in the last sports day. His speech has come on so much as well. We got a caravan not long after the children joined us so we could go away on holiday more often. On the last holiday he got up on stage and sung to everyone. It was lovely to watch.” Lauren told us the holiday’s in the caravan have been a real boost to the children. “We couldn’t get passports straight away, and the caravan has given us the chance to take them away on holiday and give them a normal life, and the same experiences as their friends.”
As a foster carer, you’ll work with a variety of professionals to ensure the child gets access to the best opportunities for them. “We used to go into the next local authority for school and contact with parents. It wasn’t far, but in school and rush hour traffic, combined with roadworks which seemed to go on and on, it took forever. Changing schools was a massive thing for the children – with the support from all the professionals involved, they have thrived after changing school as they are no longer tired from all the travelling. The last day we drove away from their old school, they changed into different children. This also gave them the confidence to speak up about what they wanted. Lewis said he no longer wanted to see Mum, he wanted a fresh start.” Sometimes as a foster carer it will be up to you to advocate for what the children in your care want. Your supervising social worker will help you with this, to make sure that you are working as one team for the best interests of the children.
Some changes happen quickly and others may take time to develop. “We started seeing changes in them both quite quickly. Within 6 months the dentist was telling them how much their teeth had improved. They were both much healthier with Amelia having put on weight, and Lewis having lost weight. Amelia still gets so excited when the scales goes up and she’s put weight on. Now they are free to develop and have consistently gone up in clothes and shoe sizes since being with us, as they should. Just be prepared for your food bill to go up – they eat so much when they are on a growth spurt as they constantly want to eat all the time.” They both enjoy their exercise so much now too, but this came with time. “You have to assume these children don’t know anything when they first arrive. Our first shock was when we took them swimming – something it quickly became clear they hadn’t done before. They didn’t know what a swimming costume was and so put it on over their clothes. They even tried to put the arm bands on their feet. After we’d shown them how to dress for swimming, they quickly picked it up once we were in the pool. Amelia is one of the fastest swimmers in her class. And Lewis is now practicing diving with a 1:1, after a lifeguard requested he join the club due to his talent. And to think they hadn’t even been in a pool 18 months ago, they’re flying.”
Both Lauren and Sian were in their 20’s when they started fostering but this didn’t put them off. “It’s easier in a way as you can keep up with the children. Our children have a lot of energy, and we’ve been with other foster families where the children have lots of energy too. We are often having to run after them. It’s also helped us to bond with the children as we are more in the know about the latest trends, and up to date with things like gaming. The children feel they can talk to us about things like that as we are on their wavelength. We also feel it helps us to adapt. Having not had our own children, we’re really open to learning new parenting techniques through the other foster carers and the training. We can adapt our techniques to the children we have with us, and find it really useful having lots of other carers to get advice from, while still remaining open to trying new ways to use the training we get.” Lauren and Sian have both attended lots of training through Fostering Solutions. “The training is excellent. The trainers are fun and explain everything, by making it fun we remember more. The content is really good, and the selection of courses is brilliant. We really learn a lot when we go to training.” Lauren told us “I also like the online training offered. It’s useful to use alongside our classroom courses.”
We asked Lauren and Sian to sum up fostering for anyone interested. “It’s amazing,” Lauren told us. “And very, very rewarding. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done and great to watch the children grow. The changes are massive, and watching them develop is magic. Best thing I’ve ever done.” Sian told us how “it’s a career, you have to be very supportive of the children. Enabling them to reach their full potential is what fostering is all about. We’d cry when we went to bed as we were so happy the children were safe, and they knew they were safe which made them happy. They can now talk about their emotions, something they never did, and we give them the reassurance they need that this is normal. If you are looking into fostering, just do it. Don’t let anything put you off, we did and wish we’d looked into it sooner.”
If Lauren and Sian’s story has inspired you to help children in care, get in touch with us about fostering today. One phone call is all it takes to changes a child’s life for the better.
**Children’s names have been changed to protect their identity.