Let's talk fostering

 

Our remarkable foster carers not only make a life changing difference to children and teenagers, some carers choose to open up their hearts and homes to a parent and child in need of support.

Take a look at our foster carers stories below and find out why our carers decided to get into fostering and hear from them what it's really like.

 

Foster carer Joy shares her fostering story

A parent and child foster placement is a specific type of fostering were, a parent  and their baby or young child, is placed with the carer if they need some extra support and advice.

We caught up with new foster carer, Joy, who's chosen to to provide room in her heart and home for a parent and child in need of extra support. Joy shares her journey so far...

Hi, I’m Joy and I started fostering after a series of life events presented me with a new opportunity. 

For more than 20 years I worked in the legal profession, eventually specialising in child protection work.  In 2011 my husband died very suddenly and six weeks later I was diagnosed with an aggressive but thankfully benign brain tumour.  This changed my thinking, I decided to do more of what I enjoyed before it was too late.  I was always a passionate sailor, and a qualified Yacht master so I started to do yacht deliveries and charters as skipper and or mate/chef.  Since 2011 I have done five Atlantic crossings, chartered all over the Med and Caribbean and a passage to New Zealand.  Lately, until Brexit stopped me working abroad, I was teaching Sailing and navigation in Palma. 

The combination of Brexit and COVID-19 made living and working abroad virtually impossible for the whole of 2020.  I didn’t want it to be over, but it was, and I felt it was time to move on. Life has a funny way of presenting new opportunities, you just have to see it. 

As I started to look into fostering, I thought there would be some prejudice against a single carer of my age, but I didn't find any.  I was up-front with my assessing social worker from the start, I had given it a lot of thought before and during the process, so I was happy to discuss my thoughts and feelings and coping strategies with her. 

She did a brilliant job, challenging where needed but never judgemental.  

Although the process does dig deep to ensure you are right for the role, I wasn’t offended by the intrusion, as every failed foster placement could potentially ruin a life so, I'm glad that so much care and thought was put into the assessment.    

During my time in the legal profession, I had come across parent and child foster -placements. I saw first-hand what a wonderful opportunity they represented to mothers who had no family support or guidance and were struggling to show they could parent effectively given the right environment and a bit of genuine kindness.  My own daughters were teenagers and I knew that if they were in similar circumstances, they would have no chance if they didn't have a secure family unit to fall back on. 

As these types of placements seemed to be pitifully thin on the ground, I had it in mind for quite some time that this type of fostering was something I felt motivated and able to do.  I also understood the legal process of care proceedings so the idea of keeping records and providing evidence without making a judgment came naturally.   

My hopes as a foster carer are that I will make a difference in a very small way, to give something back to the community.  I realise the parents who come to me will only be with me for a relatively short time, but I hope it will be the boost they need to be able to keep their child with them. Every broken family is a personal tragedy for all involved, even when it’s in the best interests of the child. As long as I can say I did my best, gave all the love and support I could, even if ultimately it wasn’t enough, it will still make a difference.  

If you can help a parent who’s struggling to cope or just needs a lucky break, why not do it?  You might be the difference between a parent and child staying together, or that child - who had done nothing wrong - losing the chance to be brought up in its birth family.  That has to be worth the effort! 

I chose to foster with my own local authority because I was impressed by the first contact, and the openness and honesty of the staff. I wanted to perform a service to my community, and I wanted to work closely and directly with the social worker involved in the case.

I wanted to work for my local authority - not for an agency that would in turn cost the authority money. So far, I'm glad I did.   

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Foster carer Kelle talks about her fostering experience

Kelle Galloway, shares her fostering journey so far. Have a read of Kelle's story to see if you could take the life changing steps of becoming a foster carer...

Hi, I’m Kelle, I’m 34 and I’ve been fostering for almost five years.

I have a daughter of my own and three other children living with me at home. I used to be a manager for a worldwide coffee chain until I left to foster on a full-time basis. 

I really loved my previous job, I was lucky enough to make fantastic memories and be involved in exciting projects, including traveling to Vietnam to open a school with the company’s charity. But I always felt there was something missing.

I’d always had a huge space in my heart for children and growing up thought I’d have a career working with children. I decided to make that change, I looked into different options but each time was drawn back to the idea of fostering. So I did it, made a phone call and here we are now!

I usually foster children who are anything up to 11 years old, but I always keep an open mind for older children. The ages of the children I currently have at home are 6, 9, 11 and 14. I offer short term, long term, emergency placements and respite. I’m also a family mentor and peer mentor supporting local Wirral families and fellow foster carers. 

There are so many positives about fostering. I’ve found that no matter what happens, as a family we always pull together to support each other. We learn from each other every day and meeting children and families from different backgrounds has enabled us all to be more open minded and understanding of people’s circumstances.

Even though I’m only five years in to fostering, I could write a book on the amount of positive stories we have within our home. One that truly stands out is during a time when one of the children was struggling to make friends at school. She was getting unkind comments about being in foster care and this had a huge impact on her confidence and self worth.

Together we worked on rebuilding that and making sure she knew how important she was, supporting her to understand that people can fear what they don’t understand and react based off that.

I then had the shock of my life when she came home one day to tell me she was writing a speech about role models to read in front of the whole school. She stood up, loud and proud, and told everyone about being in care and how her Foster Carer was her biggest role model.

The teachers said there wasn’t a dry eye in the building and the applauses and cheers she got from her fellow students is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. The pride I felt that day, and still now will be hard to beat!  

All children want is to feel loved, accepted and valued. Time is a huge healer and sometimes just being there for a child is the biggest cure. Patience is key and not giving up in a tricky situation even when you feel like you want to! 

I chose to foster through Wirral Council’s Fostering Service because it’s the borough I live in and I wanted to support local families. Being part of Wirral Fostering is great, the support from our supervising social workers is commendable and you always have someone to talk to when you need an ear to bend.

If anyone is thinking about becoming a foster carer, just make the call, even if you’re just curious about it. Get your family involved and talk it through with those closest to you. Yes, at times it’s tough, but the reward you get from the children you support outweighs any rough day by miles. 

We need to recruit more foster carers than ever before. If you or someone you know has room in their home and heart to foster.

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Foster carers Jamie & Kevin tell their fostering story

Hello, we’re Jamie and Kevin. We’ve been fostering since April 2020 (during the first lockdown). We met over 20 years ago in sunny Bournemouth, and have been together ever since. A couple of years ago we decided to have a lifestyle change, and we moved up to the Wirral.

We first thought about fostering 10 to 15 years ago. We were both volunteering with a charity as mentors to teenagers and found it very rewarding. When we moved to the Wirral, we knew we would have both the time and the space to foster.

We asked for some information from Wirral Fostering Service initially. We were thinking of fostering primary school age children until our social worker talked to us about a couple of teenagers that she was trying to place. We thought it would be a good match, so we have two boys now in our family, aged 13 and 14.

The fostering team were really friendly and helpful from the start. They were quick to begin the process to get us signed up but there was no pressure to get started as carers, just lots of encouragement and guidance. We’ve also since had some great training that helps us in our day to day fostering.

There is always going to be some apprehension when starting to foster, as it is such a significant change to any household. Doing so just as the pandemic and lockdown started gave it an extra dimension! Actually though, it meant that we spent much more time together as a family than we would have if the boys had been going to school. We got to know each other really well in the first weeks of the placement, and it has been a really positive experience.

Another big positive of fostering teenagers is that they can join in with the activities we like to do, like longer cycle rides, walks in the hills, more complex board games, and sports. Our boys also like cooking, and really get into helping and taking the lead on making meals.  Being able to share these activities has helped us bond as a family.

Introducing the boys to our families was a really nice moment. It was difficult to find opportunities to do it because of lockdown, and our families living quite far away from us, but in the summer we managed it, and everyone enjoyed meeting up.

Some of the other memorable moments have been the days out; again, these were limited due to the lockdowns, but we did get to places such as the zoo and Alton Towers, and had a bird of prey experience; sharing these moments has created some special memories.

Perhaps the most positive parts though have been just getting to know the boys and building the relationship with them at home; the conversations in the evening, the laughing at silly moments, and us learning to play Fortnite so we could play together with them as a squad.

The biggest learning point about fostering for us was finding out that, yes, we can do it! There are challenges but we’ve learned that the opportunities to make a difference have made a big and positive impact on us all. You also get to learn more about yourself and each other, as you find yourself in new situations and discover how you react to them. It turns out I can be more patient than we expected!

If you think you can give a stable and caring home to a child in need, then go for it. It will make a real difference to them and be very rewarding.

 

Foster carer Gary talks about his fostering experience

For some, the idea of opening your home up to a child or young person by becoming a foster carer may seem a little daunting but for Wirral foster carers Gary and his wife Sarah it had a positive impact on their family life.

With around 821 children in care in Wirral, 326 of which are teenagers, we caught up with Gary who is supporting our ‘Home is Where the heart is’, fostering campaign . 

Together with their three children Gary and Sarah decided, in their midst of busy careers running their own business, they had the room in their home and heart to begin fostering.

Gary talks to us about the rewarding and life shaping journey they’ve had so far and gives some helpful advice for those considering becoming one of Wirral’s remarkable foster carers…

How long have you been fostering for?

We’ve been fostering for 18 months. After becoming registered, we offered some respite on weekends for young twin boys. It was hard, full-on but a lot of fun!  Then COVID hit and we had to take some time to adjust to home schooling whilst running our own business.

With our experience in youth work, we started family mentoring for the Foster Care Team, supporting families with identified needs. It wasn’t until after our mentoring role started that we were presented with the idea of fostering teenagers.

Why did you decide to become foster carers for teenagers?

We had it in our minds that any foster child who stayed with us needed to be younger than our youngest child (eight at the time). However, we agreed to an emergency teenage foster placement. We felt an overwhelming sense of compassion and a desire to help. 

Three months into what was meant to be a three-week placement, we were asked to consider a second emergency placement. We spoke with our children and it was an emphatic “yes”.  So, whilst it wasn’t the original plan to foster teenagers, seemingly it happened by accident in some ways and in other ways it was just meant to be.

"Fostering teenagers definitely chose us. And we love it!"

What are the positives to fostering teenagers?

It’s easy to think of it as us helping them. Which is true in some ways, but in our experience...

"they have added so much to our family life."

It’s a two-way thing. Teenagers are going through, or have gone through, a lot of things and a lot of changes. It’s been an honour to be on a journey with them, helping them experience and create a new way of doing life and family. You have a unique opportunity to help them make good choices and fulfil their potential but, if you are open to it, they will also help shape who you are and enable you to be a better person.

I think creating a safe space they can call home, with your positive input as they grapple with life as a teenager, might even create a bond and fond memories that can last a lifetime.   

What have you learnt from fostering?

I felt uneasy opening my home to a someone I didn’t know at first, especially with having three children of our own. It’s natural. Your hope, more than anything, is that everyone will get on and there will be peace and harmony. This is especially heightened when everyone is being home schooled from four different schools! 

We’ve learnt that creating clear check-ins, routines, equal and fair boundaries, and personal space, along with sharing in the chores, has created an environment for good relationships to develop, and positive and fun memories to look back on. 

I think it’s also important to create the space for dedicated individual time, as a couple, a family, and between an adult and child. We all need investment of time. Finally, if tensions are rising, take time to reflect, communicate, and move forwards together. I’ve found peace and harmony is something everyone wants and, when they know that is a choice and they know the path, they can achieve it.

What would you say to someone considering fostering?

You are allowed to be unsure when you get in touch with the team, but at least know you want to help and think you can. 

Be prepared to make sacrifices. Having any child in your life involves sacrifices…or at least it should. I’ve only ever known them to be worth it. Remember, if you can even consider fostering a teenager, you are in a very privileged position in life. 

It is an honour, a delight and sometimes a heartache to help a teenager grapple with life.

"If you think you can - do it!"

At the very least you will have made a big difference to someone but you might also find a friend for life. You may never feel fully equipped, no matter how broad your experience but you will receive training and support to help you. If you have love and kindness to share, then you can provide what these young people need the most.

 

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