Carer's Stories - Sue Fostering Stories – Steve GCSE Reforms: How to Understand the New Grading System
News | Carer's Stories - Sue Sue has been a foster carer with Fostering Solutions for 4 ½ years, and in that time has provided a home to 3 children and a parent and child placement. “I decided to foster because I was looking to return to work after having my own family, and if truth be known, I was at home for 20 years, and had worked at one company previously so didn’t feel my skills were up to date. It was my husband who suggested it at first, and I had to think about it for a long time to build up my confidence to apply.” Sue took the first steps to becoming a foster carer 5 years ago by coming along to one of our events. She remembers it fondly, “my husband came home from work having heard about the event at work that day and we went along not really knowing what to expect.” Foster carers can come from all variety of backgrounds, you don’t necessarily have to have worked with children before. Sue was an office worker, starting off as an office junior for the company and working her way up to office manager when she left 20 years later to raise her children. “The children were 13 and 16/17 when we first started looking at fostering. Our oldest was more cautious, but very supportive of us becoming foster carers if that’s what we wanted to do, our youngest was all for it and very excited about the prospect of other children in the house.” Children returning to their parents is the ideal outcome of any foster placement, Sue has worked alongside parents to ensure this with 2 of her previous placements. “It’s important to work alongside Mum and social services to ensure that if the child is able to return home, they do. I fostered a 2 year old boy for around 9 months. He had come to us from another foster carer where he had been aggressive towards the other children in their care. He was attacking children in nursery, had no routine, no bedtime or sleeping pattern, and ate anything and everything he could. We took him in as with having older children he wasn’t going to be able to hurt them like he could other little ones. We worked on introducing healthy foods into his diet, and bedtimes into his routine. By the time he went back to Mum 9 months later, he was out of nappies, well behaved, had a bedtime routine, and even the nursery had commented on how much of a different child he was in terms of his behaviours. In that time Mum had also managed to access the support she needed, and we worked alongside her to ensure the mother-son relationship remained throughout the placement.” Sue stressed the importance of working alongside parents to ensure relationships are kept stable, and parents are still involved with bringing up their child if the aim is for the child to return to them. With Sue’s second placement she replicated this to ensure that the 14 year old girl was able to keep in touch with her family. Having come into care due to her mother’s mental health issues, she was out of school, had given up on her hobbies, and struggled to socialise with her peers. Sue maintained contact with the birth mum and family, “supporting the Mum with her parenting skills and to get the mental health help she needed. Mum had another child whilst the placement was going on, and so I supported our placement to transition back into the family with an extra family member in the house. By helping Mum to keep her mental health stable after the birth of her new baby, the girl we had looked after was able to return to her care. In the 7 months she was with us, we managed to get her back to school, and starting to return to her hobbies as a way of socialising, even if she didn’t always join in.” Sue’s biggest tip for working with parents is to remain honest with each other at all times. “By communicating with them, and telling them both the good and the bad, you are able to build up trust with the parents which gives them the confidence to improve their parenting. It also helps social services to decide about the child going back to their parents, as they can see you working together to allow the child to have the best possible chances and opportunities. Once parents realise you are not the social worker, and are there to support them to have breathing space and sort what has gone wrong, you can have a good relationship with them to support them and the child.” Both Mum’s thanked Sue and her family when the children went home, for having helped them through a difficult time. “Mum gave the little boy flowers to give to me when I dropped him off with her for the final time. He started crying and refused to give them to me as he didn’t want me to go. We kept in contact for over 12 months, in particular at Christmas and birthdays, and it was lovely to see him continue to thrive in the care of his Mum.” We asked Sue what she thought of Fostering Solutions, and whether she would recommend fostering to other. “The support and training are second to none, it’s absolutely fantastic. I’ve learned so much from the training programme, and although I’ve never been able to put everything I’ve learned into practice, it’s given me the confidence to look at situations in another way. The support groups are really useful. Being able to talk to other carers and know you’re not alone is a lifeline in helping you to deal with new situations and issues that arise.” “I’ve found fostering to be a positive experience, one that is very rewarding. I’ve had more job satisfaction doing this than anything else I’ve ever done. It gives you the feel-good factor knowing you’ve done your bit. You’ve been able to help that person in a positive way and make a positive difference.” If Sue’s story has inspired you to foster, get in touch with us today via our enquiry form or on 0800 160 1605. News | Fostering Stories – Steve Steve has been a foster carer with Fostering Solutions for 8 years. For 5 of those years, he has been a single male foster carer and during this time he has provided support and guidance to over 40 children. After a challenging childhood, he made the decision to help children have a better life, and has made an impact on every child he has taken into his care. “Being a single male foster carer feels no different. I still have the same passion and love the kids to bits,” Steve told me. Each of the 40 children have also made an impact on Steve’s life as a foster carer. Having looked after all ages from a day old on Parent and Child foster placements, to 21 with young people on our ‘Staying Put’ arrangement, Steve considers each and every one to be part of his family. Steve told us how “they all keep in touch, message and come round. It’s really nice to see them. I still send birthday cards, and they all say son or daughter as to me, they are part of the family.” Steve has some amazing memories of the children he has looked after that he “can treasure forever”. Steve has previously worked for the YMCA, and compared to that fostering “has been a walk in the park”. It’s easier to be “laid back and don’t let things get to you”, by building up that trust the children and young people that Steve has cared for have been able to approach him with various issues during their times staying with him. He told us how his “biggest downfall is letting them go”. It doesn’t get any easier, but by keeping in touch it helps him to stay connected with the children who have been such a hug part of his life. “I make memory boxes with letters and pictures so they can remember their time with me,” Steve told us. This has been especially important for the younger children who are unable to keep in regular contact via the internet due to their age. Although younger children can’t always stay in contact, teenagers can present their own challenges. Steve advised anyone considering fostering teenagers to “keep calm about everything. Sit down and talk to them about teenage issues. They’ll still go off and do what every teen does, but they’ll trust you enough to come back and talk to you. A lot of what they say may also be bragging rights, so being there to inform is always best”. Steve’s assessment process was the same as anyone else, regardless of being a single male foster carer. Steve found it “alright. The assessing social worker was easy to get along with, and although I was nervous about panel, they made me feel at home and were really easy to get along with”. Just by being honest and open with the assessing social worker, it was clear that Steve had what it took to be a great foster carer. His challenging upbringing was seen as a positive, as he is able to empathise with the young people he cares about. We asked Steve what advise he would give to anyone thinking of fostering. “It’s not something you can just go into,” Steve told us. “You have to have the passion and the dedication to make a difference for the children. You need to be there for the good and the bad, ensuring the support and love is always there as that’s what the children are currently missing. Once you’ve made the decision, just go for it. The rewards are second to none and it’s an unbelievable sense of achievement knowing you’ve done the best you can to change the lives of the children and young people. Seeing them get jobs, and doing well is all the reward you need. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, and would do it again in a heartbeat.” News | GCSE Reforms: How to Understand the New Grading System GCSE season is a stressful time for most young people. First, there’s the stress of revision and the pressure of exam week, and then the long wait for results day, which hangs heavy over much of the summer break.