Carer's Stories - Sue Fostering Stories – Steve Parent and Child fostering – what’s it all about?
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 | Parent and Child fostering – what’s it all about? Parent and child fostering is a type of fostering in which a foster carer opens their house to a parent or parents and their child or children. There are various different reasons why a parent may come into these types of placement including being a looked after child themselves, young and struggling to adapt, or having learning difficulties. These placements help to keep families together, and provide the chance for parents to learn new skills. This helps them to develop as parents and can stop a child from being taken into care due to a lack of parenting knowledge. One of our Liverpool carers, Mandy, has been a foster carer for 7 ½ years with Fostering Solutions, and started taking parent and child foster placements in 2014. We spoke to her more about her experiences and why she chooses to open her home to these parents. What does being a parent and child foster carer involve? Mandy explained how no two placements are ever the same. Being a foster carer for a parent and child can sometimes be tiring at first if parents are not allowed to be left alone with their child to start with. However, the situation is constantly changing, with parents developing new skills all the time, and therefore it’s important to adapt to how the parent is coping with caring for their child safely. By supporting and educating the parent to look after their child, the parent is learning about child development, physical development, and mental wellbeing of both themselves and the child. It’s also important to help the parent access appropriate services and ensure they understand they can trust them. Mandy spoke about how some parents come to her not knowing them can claim benefits such as child benefit, and how it’s her responsibility to ensure that they know how to access these services. It’s also helping the parent to be more independent. Mandy teaches her placements how to budget, and also how to cook and bake. This gives them the skills they need to survive once they have a house of their own and the placement is over. Mandy compared helping them to set up a house and be independent to looking after a 17-18 year old looked after child, but with a baby too. Mandy’s first placement came to her having some cooking skills but being unable to bake. Her placement learned from Mandy, and baked her child’s first birthday cake. Being a parent and child foster carer can also mean supporting contact between the child and the parent not in placement. Mandy spoke about how she taught one Dad some parenting skills too during supervised contact sessions as he had little experience as well. There’s also a lot of paperwork to complete. There are various recordings of observations to be kept, as all the new skills the parent is learning needs to be evidenced to ensure that the child will be safe and well looked after when they move to their own home. What are the benefits of this type of placement? There are many benefits to parent and child fostering, both to the parent and child in placement, but also to the foster carer. Many of the parents Mandy has worked with have been involved in the care system themselves growing up. With their parents having struggled with parenting skills themselves, they have not been able to observe good parenting skills and so struggle to develop these. By being in a Parent and Child foster placement, our foster carers are able to teach these parents skills and gives them the opportunity to keep their family together, breaking the cycle of children entering the care system. Mandy told me of one of her placements with whom she is still in touch with now. The parent was a teenage parent who turned her life around from being able to learn from Mandy. She had not been a regular attender of school, but passed her GCSE’s whilst living with Mandy, and is now studying at college with the aim of going to university. As well as benefitting families by keeping them together, these placements are also beneficial to foster carers. Mandy spoke about how she enjoys the challenges each new placement brings. She explained how she came into fostering to make a difference, and now she is able to keep families together and change the lives of parents who would previously have struggled with raising a child, but also helping children who may have ended up in the care system themselves at a later date. Mandy also likes the flexibility of parent and child foster care. Being shorter placements, this allows Mandy to fit other aspects of her life in around these placements and to plan ahead such as visiting her son in Australia. What challenges does it bring? With any foster placement, there will always be challenges. When looking after a parent and child, this is no different. Parents can often be averse to working with social workers and professionals at first, for fear of taking their child away from them. This is particularly common with children who have grown up in the care system. Mandy spoke about how this was always the biggest challenge to overcome, by getting the parent to trust the professionals and be honest with them. One of Mandy’s parents was concerned about the development of her child. Prior to her placement, the parent would not have approached anyone for help, but as she was more trusting of professionals after living with Mandy, she was able to express her concerns to a health visitor without fear of being judged and get the help her child needed. Another challenge within parent and child foster care is ensuring the parents are able to identify the help they need. Mandy identifies lots of training workshops that her parents can attend to help them develop parenting skills, but she also helps them with any mental health issues or learning difficulties they may have. This allows them to improve their wellbeing, alongside learning how to look after their child safely. What memorable moments do you have? Being a foster carer has lots of memorable moments, but Mandy finds the best moment for her is seeing all her placements again and keeping in touch with them. When possible, Mandy has an annual tea party for all her parent and child placements in which she can catch up with how they are all doing. She loves to see the children again and how they are growing up, and she finds it heart-warming to see how the parents have changed with jobs, college courses and good futures to look forward to. See also enjoys going along to birthday parties she’s invited to and receiving messages of thanks from old placements to make it all worthwhile. Why do you enjoy being a parent and child foster carer? We asked Mandy what she most enjoyed about being a parent and child foster carer, and her answer was keeping families together. By seeing the children develop, and giving the parents a chance to develop their skills and keep the family together, it helps to break the cycle of children being taken into care. It gives a family a chance to develop and stay together, which gives the child the best chances in life.