Foster carers stories

Emma's story

Photograph of woman holding young girl and smiling at camera

We started fostering seven years ago when our boys were five and three.

It was something we had wondered about doing further into the future when they were much older but then we realised our lives were set up for little children now and it would allow me to be at home for the boys more so we went for it.

It has been the best decision! There are many things I love about fostering, but one of those is working with the parents of the child we are fostering. The situations children come into foster care from are varied but it is a very difficult time for their parents and often they have had a lot of challenges in their lives before.

As a foster carer my primary focus is obviously for the baby I am looking after: to nurture them and be an advocate for them, but I have also enjoyed building relationships with parents and extending acceptance and kindness to them to try to ease a little the difficulty of the situation they are in. A positive relationship with parents massively benefits their child and particularly makes the transitions at the start and end of family contact much more relaxed and positive for everyone. It can also impact the direction that things go in and have a long reaching impact into the future.

We had a break from fostering for a little while and started again just before the first Covid lockdown. Julia, a newborn baby girl, joined our family and although it turned out to only be for six weeks that was a very strange time in the world and every week felt a lot longer. Those weeks will have felt like an eternity for her mum. I met her mum just a small handful of times before all direct contact had to stop due to Covid and we had to think very quickly about how we could maintain good meaningful contact between them.

In discussion with her social worker we agreed that we would do a daily video chat at lunchtime each day and I would send an email with some photos every evening. Julia’s mum spoke very little English and she would chat directly to Julia in her language and sing nursery rhymes to her, often while sobbing. I would try my best to keep Julia settled and hold her in a way that her mum could see her well.

Through the video calls and emails (with the help of google translate) I quickly built a good relationship with Mum and could tell that she trusted me even when she was very angry with social work.  Mum made some radical changes in her life and a plan to rehabilitate Julia home was quickly put in place. I really wanted things to work out for Julia and her mum and wanted to ensure as best I could that they got off to the best start possible together. Her mum had been in a very difficult situation and although she would have her daughter back, her situation would remain difficult.

We packed up all the clothes and baby equipment she would need and, because we couldn’t have the usual type of transition, I created videos of how to do things and wrote out a long handover note that was translated. We had a video call with a translator and we met up for a walk the day before Julia went home. On the day Julia went home her social worker and I carried all of the stuff up four flights of stairs and stood, socially distanced, in the hall outside the flat assembling the crib and talking her through everything.

I saw Julia and her mum recently, a year on from Julia’s time with us. It was so wonderful to see how well they were both doing and to know that although Julia was only with us for a short time, the relationship I formed with her mum made a big difference in how things turned out. I feel so privileged to be a foster carer and to be able to care for vulnerable children and offer support to their families at such a difficult time in their lives. I feel really proud that as a family we are able to make such a difference, especially doing something we love, and I know it has such a positive impact on our children too.

*all names have been changed to protect privacy.

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