The provision of support to foster carers is a legislative requirement. What is interesting is that a great many foster carers feel underwhelmed by the levels of perceived support offered to them. Support is relatively easy to provide we feel. It is about enabling a foster carer to feel safe in their decision making, offering development which leads to mastery and working proactively to support the prevention of occurrences that cause fear. This requires having a good relationship with carers, and enabling them to feel able to trust us. It is built on honest conversations and realistic management of expectations. Julie and Michael are new foster carers, they were approved in August. They were kind enough to share some of their thoughts when I interviewed them.
I asked Julie what their initial motivation to foster had been and how their experience of the process of becoming approved to foster was for them.
She explained, “Our initial motivation was based on the fact that we had room in our home, we missed family life (after our children had fled the nest) and we really wanted to make a huge difference to a child’s life in any way we could”.
She said “The process from getting in touch with “To The Moon and Back” early last January, via a telephone call was amazing. The lady who answered the phone was so supportive, kind, genuine and extremely engaging, listening to our queries, advising, supporting and encouraging, answering all of our questions in a very professional manner and not making any judgements. She was very happy to discuss anything, with no time limit to the call. Throughout the fostering process “The Moon and Back” were SO supportive, encouraging us and answering every question, big or small and they always had the time to listen and explain the process of fostering. They were very professional and discreet, dealing with all references and interviews with our friends and relatives both in person and by telephone. They were always happy to explain every step of the process.”
I asked how they felt about their first placement, before the young person arrived, the initial first weeks and after the young person had left?
Julie said, “Obviously we felt nervous, anxious and a bit scared about our first placement, but “The Moon and Back” adequately prepared us via our skills to fostering courses and the assessment itself. We attended child centred training days where we met other foster carers, social workers and professional people from all walks of life who equally offered encouragement and support.
The initial first weeks of being a “real” foster carer were extremely well supported by the team, via daily phone calls/emails and very regular visits also. They were so encouraging, enabling us to make good decisions and providing support at all times, day or night it felt that they were there for us.
At no time did we feel alone or out of our depth. Our first child presented with complex needs, and had been involved in county lines activity previously. We were given information to make a decision about the placement and it felt right. The team at “The Moon and Back” could not do enough to support us at any time we needed advice or support. In fact they were there “on speed dial” every step of our journey.
After the young person left us, to return home, the support and caring and encouragement for us still continued.”
Not being offered sufficient support, is a big area of concern for many foster carers nationally. I asked the couple, what the support they felt they had needed, since being approved, actually looked like and if they felt they had had it.
Julie said, that the support had been on-going, “It is always there, via personal visits, phone calls emails etc, it never goes away. “The Moon and Back” is just a phone call away at any time of day or night.”
She said it feels that we are learning all the time and thinking and reflecting on our fostering experience and practice constantly. We have been meeting new foster carers and professionals and making relationships with all of the people surrounding the children in our care. We are drawing on all of our experiences and working out what we can do better to improve the outcomes for the child.”
I asked them what advice they would give to people who are thinking about fostering?
They said “Learn as much as you can about what fostering is all about, talk to other foster carers and social workers, think seriously about what you can bring to fostering and then do it. Enjoy the process, the challenge, meeting lots of new people from all walks of life, and above all be proud of your achievements in making a huge huge difference to a young persons life. Last but not least, enjoy every moment of your journey and making some amazing memories.”
Christmas can be a complicated time for young people living in care. With children hearing messages about Christmas being about family but not spending it with their own family. I asked them what this Christmas looked like for them.
Julie said “Christmas is a busy time for everyone but having a foster child at Christmas is about being present for our child, listening and being supportive and showing that we understand how they may be feeling. Above all, our focus is about making our child feel special, loved and wanted no matter what challenges confront us. We are looking forward to making a difference to our child, today, tomorrow and in the longer-term future.”