A job with learning to love someone at its heart
Foster carer Jo* shares her story about becoming a foster carer. She hopes it will encourage more people to consider becoming foster carers.
My husband and I started fostering 4 years ago. We were inspired to foster after we had our first child and discovered our love of parenting; we then waited a few years before the time was right for us to apply. Before becoming a full-time mum I had been working in community development and my husband was (and continues to be) in the voluntary sector (having originally trained as a chemical engineer). It was exciting to be able to imagine ourselves in a job which had at its heart learning to love someone really well!
The journey into fostering takes some time. We went along to an open evening to find out more as well as speaking to friends of friends who were foster carers. We anticipated it taking a year to get through the process, and applied with that in mind, when our own boys were 5 and 3. We were nervous about the intrusion into our private life that comes during the application process. It was fine, and continues to be so, though it does take some adjustment getting used to.
The first little girl that arrived to stay with us was 2½. “Katie”* had very few words, the most frequently used ones being “no way!” It was a huge adjustment for us all, especially our boys. We were as ready for it as we could be, and we felt well supported by our worker as we settled into our new situation. Only a few weeks in I was struck by the place she already had in my heart – I loved her! Two and half years later our hearts were aching as we waved her off from our front door; after a planned transition she was now heading off to begin life with her new forever family (permanent foster carers). We took a few months off before getting another placement; it was important for us to come to terms with what we had lost and to reconnect as our core family.
Next, we took in an emergency placement, having just a few hours to get ready for a 12-month-old girl to arrive. “What do one-year-olds do?” I googled! Nine months later and she is still with us, bringing us so much delight (and some sleep deprivation!).
Learning to relate well with birth parents has been an important part of our fostering journey. There can be lots of barriers to that, including language, their fear, or their perception of us. We do what we can to build the relationship and make it good; parents have often had extremely tough childhoods themselves.
We love fostering. The hardest bit has been saying goodbye; but a year later we are still in touch with “Katie” and her family, where she is thriving. It took her time to settle, but we know that all the love we gave her helped her be able to do that. The best thing about fostering is that you get to practice loving, every day. And that doesn’t just impact on the child you are looking after – it impacts your whole family and your own heart. Sometimes loving feels costly, but the reward is more than worth it.
*all names have been changed to protect privacy.