Nicky and John have been foster carers with Fostering Solutions Merseyside since 2017. In this time, they have supported 4 children on a short term basis, and 2 children on respite. Having both worked in the prison service, they had both come across lots of care experienced prisoners in their time, and this had given them an insight into the backgrounds of the children who come into care, and the difference a positive stable home could make for these young people.
Nicky first looked into fostering after speaking to one of her colleagues. “She was also a foster carer with Fostering Solutions, and suggested that we’d be really good at it. I’d been working with a prisoner who had opened up about his time in care, and the difference his foster Mum had made to his life. He was still in touch with her, and it really opened my eyes to what these children and young people go through. I worked with a lot of adults who were either care experienced, or had lived with other family members during their childhood. After getting more of an insight into the role after speaking to my colleague, I decided it was definitely for us and we took that first step.” Nicky’s daughter was only 6 at this time, and it had to be the right decision for the whole family. “She was really excited, and looking forward to having me at home more. She’d been in nursery since she was 4-5 months old, and I’d often be working in the evenings due to my shifts, so it’s been great getting to spend more time with her as she grows up.” After making sure that it was definitely the right decision for the whole family, they enquired with Fostering Solutions and started the assessment process.
Often the fostering assessment can be a little intense. “It felt like our social worker had moved into our home. It was a very full on few months, but it’s clear why the questions are being asked when you think about the sort of children you’re going to be looking after. Our assessing social worker was great, she really put us at ease. The panel was a little bit nerve-wracking, but once we got in there everyone was really friendly and it was just calm. Just be yourself throughout the process and it’s all worth it.” Not long after they were approved, Nicky and John offered some respite care for another fostering family. “I was still working full time, so I took a week off on leave to care for the two boys, and it was amazing. It made me realise we’d definitely made the right decision and I couldn’t wait to get started with having our own children to look after.” Nicky didn’t have to wait too long, as they soon had 2 young boys come to live with them.
The first two children who came to stay with Nicky and John, were 2 boys aged 3 and 6. “You could see how their background had affected their behaviours.” Nicky told us how it’s often difficult to prepare for the first children who come to stay with you. “We didn’t know too much about them, although you are told a lot about their history. It’s important just to take each day as it comes, and get to know them as they start joining in with your family. They were so happy and settled when they arrived, whereas I don’t think I slept at all the first night worrying they were unsettled. In the 12 months they were with us, the school saw a massive difference in the oldest child, and we toilet trained the youngest who did really well.”
Children often only stay with foster carers short term and this was no different for Nicky and John’s boys. “They stayed for 12 months before going to live with family. We did lots with them in the time they were with us though – we took them to football matches, family events, days out, they loved it all. Although they moved in with family, we still keep in touch with them. We get lots of photos and videos of the boys and how well they are doing, it’s lovely to see. Especially at times like Christmas.”
Not long after the boys had settled with their new family, Nicky and John took in 2 more siblings. “The girls were 4 weeks and just turned 4 when they joined us. They’ve changed so much in the last 18 months with us and it’s lovely to see. Having a baby in the house again was different but lovely. By 12 weeks she was sleeping through though. Her sister had a few anxiety issues, even at 4. She really struggled to express her emotions, and with Czech being her first language she struggled with communicating in general at first. She was also very overweight, and was over-fed at contact too, which they went to 3 times per week.” Even in a small space of time however, foster families make a huge difference to the lives of the children they care for.
Since being with Nicky and John, the girls have developed so much. “After contact stopped, our oldest started to lose some of the excess weight she had put on. Her anxiety also got so much better. She felt better able to communicate her emotions and her language has come on so well. She’s also developed a lot of confidence. With gymnastics, dance, and swimming now regular parts of her life she has become a little social butterfly, and is absolutely flying with all three. She even talks about her feelings with us, and she always comes out of school now with a smile on her face. Her little sister is following in her footsteps too – she goes to puddle-ducks swimming and baby ballet, and has recently started at nursery to give her the chance to develop socially. It’s lovely to watch them both together. Our own daughter has really taken a shine to them as well, they are all really close.” The confidence that Nicky and John are instilling with the girls will stay with them for life.
Since being with Fostering Solutions, Nicky and John have taken part in lots of training and attended their local support group in Liverpool. “It’s fantastic being able to talk to other foster carers, especially when you are new. I’ve learned so many tips for other carers that I’ve been able to try out with the children we’ve been caring for. The support is brilliant as well. We had some challenging times with the boys, but we made use of the local Helping Hands service, and our supervising social worker was always available when we needed her.” Fostering Solutions also run family activities during the school holidays, and social events for our foster carers too. “It’s a great opportunity to meet with other carers. The events the team run are absolutely brilliant, and it’s great that the kids all get along together really well too.”
For Nicky and John, it became clear very quickly that they’d made the right choice for their family. “I absolutely love what I’m doing. I took the plunge and I’ve never looked back. To see the development in the children, and them settling down in a stable home is what makes it all worthwhile.”
If you’d like to find out more about fostering in Merseyside, or across the UK, get in touch with us via our online form today.