When Joe retired from a long career in the police force three years ago, he felt like he wanted a new challenge. His three daughters were grown up and he missed being a hands-on dad.
A friend who was a foster carer with Fostering Solutions, one of National Fostering Group’s agencies, suggested fostering. Joe made a call to the agency to sound them out and discover more about the different types of fostering.
Joe is now the foster carer of three siblings – sisters aged three and eight, and their nine-year-old brother.
From ‘directionless’ to ‘rewarding’
Joe’s life has changed completely and he’s pleased he made the decision to foster. “I feel really positive about it, it’s such a rewarding thing to do,” he said.
“I was a bit directionless when I left the police. My daughters had left home and I was rattling around the house on my own. Now I am sole foster carer for three children and all of my focus in on looking after them and making sure they are happy and cared for.
“You let go of worrying about small things like how tidy the house is and focus instead on doing whatever you can to improve their lives. The reward is in seeing them content.
“When my daughters were young, I often felt guilty that I wasn’t doing enough. Fostering is very different as these children have had a very difficult start so everything you are doing helps to improve their lives.”
Joe’s transition to foster carer
When Joe was first approved as a foster carer, he was working nights and weekends in a civilian role with the police force. Working shifts made it difficult for him to take on a most types of foster care except very short-term and respite placements.
He made the decision to move to a job with a property management company, which would give him regular hours. Three weeks in, lockdown happened and Joe was furloughed.
He said: “I was sitting at home and I got a phone call asking if I was able to take three siblings who had been taken into police protection and needed an urgent placement. I was not working so the timing was perfect. They arrived at midnight with only the clothes they were wearing.”
A new routine for fostering siblings
Joe quickly established a structured routine for the children. The baby had never had a proper bedtime routine and was unable to speak more than five words. Also, her siblings had to translate as she was trying to speak around the dummy in her mouth. Caring for their baby sister meant the older siblings had no proper routines either.
“Having a regular routine and a structured and stable home life has helped the children come on in leaps and bounds,” Joe explained.
“The older ones have been released from having to care for their baby sister and can have a proper childhood. At first, whenever the baby used to cry in the night, her brother would get up to try and help me to soothe her.
“It was hard to break that habit but he needed to be able to sleep through the night and now he can. The three-year old is now toilet trained and I can’t stop her talking! The two older siblings started school in September.”
Support from his local team – and his daughters
Joe finds the support from his supervising social worker to be invaluable and his grown-up daughters also provide a vital support network.
“The training is excellent but you need to be able to dedicate two or three hours to it over Zoom, so you need back up. My daughters, who are in their 20s, have been fantastic and are cleared to provide overnight support if I need it.”
From policeman to foster carer
For Joe, it is a new experience to find himself in the role of foster carer rather than police officer when it comes to child protection.
“In my time as a police officer, I’ve taken children into care and driven them to the home of a foster carer in the middle of the night. Now I am that foster carer.
“I am aware of the awful situation some children find themselves in and it feels good to be the one picking up the loose ends after the police have left. I really value the training as it’s not an easy job.”
He found the assessment process surprisingly in-depth and admits it felt a little intrusive at times. But he also found it therapeutic to go through his early life and discuss things in detail.
“If you’re thinking about fostering, I would say do it. Take the next step and see where it takes you. I’m so glad I did it and it’s been interesting to foster siblings.
“I don’t know how it will be to have different foster children here who are unrelated – different challenges I expect, but also very rewarding. The opportunity to foster definitely came at the right time for me.”