KATE: A QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION
Why did you make the decision to become a foster carer?
From my professional and personal life experiences! Positive feed-back from others helped me believe I could offer a loving stable home to a young person. It was something I had considered for many years but didn’t quite know how to go about it. There was an information session at work which I followed up but I didn’t think I was ready yet and left it for a few years. By then my children had grown up and were in their own homes so I felt I now had the space and time to offer a young person. I believe problems do not make the person and being able to reflect, praise and build in solution focus strategies can create successful outcomes and aspirations.
How has fostering affected your family?
Recognising how difficult it must be for a foster child going into a new home, my family has embraced inevitable change through the good and not so good times by building a consistent nurturing relationship. I have kept my family life as normal as possible and the young people who come into my care integrate into this and become a member my immediate family.
What age range do you foster?
Initially 13-16 year olds but was I approved last year for 0-18.
Can you remember your initial expectation of fostering?
I knew it was not going to be without challenges as I had many years’ experience of working with teenagers with diverse issues. But I felt I more than had enough skills and knowledge to cope with the challenges. I also felt as my children had left home I now had the space to share the home with younger people and enlighten their lives with positive activity.
Any particular highlights?
As each young person produces numerous happy moments I cannot possibly say one is the best but a live theatre visit does come to mind as a highlight. We went to see the Snowman a few years ago and it transformed my opinion of a stroppy 17 year-old as they turned into an awesome gentle loving person. She said it was the best thing she had ever seen when she has children she will take them to live theatre so they can experience what she just had.
I’m a vegetarian and a young person who is a meat eater who didn’t cook, had no understanding of vegetarian food, told me they can’t cook without meat and surprised me with a vegetarian meal.
One hot summers day the young person relaxed in the garden with me, talking for hours, and helped me plant some vegetable seeds and nurtured their growth. It’s moments like that.
And the lows?
The first time someone went missing and I was scared something bad had happened. I followed procedure and called the police which I found really frightening as I’d had no contact with the police before. They asked me loads of questions I was unprepared for as didn’t know what to expect.
What have been the challenges and the positives drawn?
One negative challenge is the passive aggressive behaviour and silent treatment by the young person as you do not know what is wrong or are being given opportunity to support them. I found this debilitating.
The positive is I’ve learnt that this is more common than I had imagined. It’s often a means of control and may not necessarily have anything to do with my caring but the young person’s way of having ownership. This behaviour does change if given a trusting loving environment.
How do these challenges get resolved?
A lot of hard work! By showing consistent reliable love by being reflective, patient, caring and listening. Many young people have been let down by others and its to show that you really do care about them even with some of the challenges.
Tell us about the support you have received?
Most of the support comes from my immediate and extended family and friends and professionally from my supervising social worker Winston Griffiths and his manager John Crawford. Also a lot from other foster carers who know what you are going through.
Organisations working with the young person such as the Leaving Care Team, the young person’s social worker, AMASS, Brandon Project, CAMHS as well as the teenage support group, the new foster carers support group. Also of course through the colleges and training courses. There is a large support network luckily.
What were your children’s views and feelings at the start of your fostering career and did it change as your career went on?
My children who are adults now were very supportive, encouraging and impressed by my commitment. Whist this is still the same they do find it difficult sometimes when they see some of the challenging behaviour I have to deal but are still 100% behind me. So much so that I’m going abroad on holiday and they will be staying with my foster child for 2 weeks instead of her having to go into respite care!