Here we talk to Joy Pollock an approved carer this year with her first child now firmly in place and part of the family;
What made you become a foster carer?
I have had it in the back of mind for years – even before we had our first which is 7 years ago now. I found I was always crying over news story about children but saw no point in just crying. It doesn’t help anyone. So we decided to actually do something about it. Why now? Timing is everything, we had finished our family, my son has started school, we had completed a loft conversion so the time was right.
How long have you been fostering?
This is our first placement. She arrived at the beginning of February 2015. We were approved as foster carers on 22nd January, so didn’t have a long wait until our first placement.
Are you currently fostering and what age/sex?
D is a 7 month old baby girl.
Do you currently have your own family – partner/children (ages/sex of children)
At home, I have my husband Tom, who works full time and two children. My daughter, 7 is in year 2 and my son who is 4 is in Reception.
What are the biggest rewards about being a foster carer for Worcestershire Fostering?
Despite having D for a relatively short time, it has been an absolute joy and privilege to look after her and to see her thrive, grow and develop in our care. People may tend to think just of what we can give to a child but, more often than not, it’s what they bring to the family dynamic that is so special. She has progressed and met developmental milestones. Just a giggle or a smile that lights up her whole face makes it worthwhile.
What are the biggest challenges?
The challenges have been around the level of contact I have with birth parents in my own home. Whilst I agreed to do it, and I can see it is in her best interests, it is, nonetheless, a commitment. The challenge is to make it work for me and use the time productively. I look at it as free childcare!
How has fostering affected your own family?
Obviously it does affect family life in more ways than one. My ‘baby’ is no longer the baby but has adjusted well to caring for someone younger than himself. He is gentle and loves her. My eldest enjoys the responsibility of holding a baby and being genuinely helpful, which she was too young to be involved in when her own brother was born. Family dynamics change and it’s important to acknowledge this. I was careful not to have a child placed with us that came between the ages of my two, so we have gone for ‘younger than my youngest’. My reasoning was to mimic what could have happened naturally if I were to have another child. We make sure we intentionally spend separate time with all three to best meet their needs.
How has fostering affected your life in general?
We chose to foster at this stage in life because it was the most seamless transition. I was not in paid work as I had been raising our family, so there was nothing I had to sacrifice or give up to do the job. I feel like I have just extended the pre-school season I have been in anyway. I have a good support network around me in terms of toddler groups and friends with children the same age so we share expertise, resources and sleep deprivation stories. Obviously three children makes life busier than 2, but actually it’s a bit like economies of scale! The more hidden workload comes with meetings, paperwork, LAC (Looked after child) reviews and communications with other agencies.
What is the one question people often ask you when they know you are a foster carer
What made you do it?
How easy was it to be a foster carer for Worcestershire County Council?
Access to information about fostering or adoption was readily available and easy to access. The next step, the ‘Skills to foster’ course did entail my husband taking time off work but it was not a protracted course. The whole process is extremely thorough – which it should be. I felt very proud of my achievement after panel approved us as it was not an easy ride.
How did you find the process at Worcestershire CC?
The form F assessment delved into our past and present in all aspect of life, marriage, finance, parenting style, religious views, cultural stand points etc. and it was, at times quite draining. What it does do, however, is create a very firm foundation to more forward from and the relationship we have with our social worker, who undertook the assessment is good as a result.
What would make the process any easier?
Should it be any easier?!
Can you give me one poignant moment which really made you glad you were a foster carer?
Like your baby’s first smile. That hard slog with broken sleep, dirty nappies, sick on all your clothes and no feedback or encouragement – and then they smile! It makes it all worthwhile. It was a bit like that feeling, when your placement smiled at us, and we knew she was happy and knew us.
What was the one thing that you were concerned about before you started fostering?
My concern has always been the safety and well being of our own children. I didn’t want them to be at risk of being hurt – physically or emotionally. I was also worried about exposure to language they had not heard yet or behaviours that were not age appropriate.
How do you manage when you have to give up/back a foster child?
Don’t know yet! I’ll keep you posted. I think that managing the loss is on going. It doesn’t just happen when they are moved on from your care. With our case, I am reminded every time parents come for contact that she belongs to someone else. We talk a lot about when D may not be with us anymore to help prepare the children and manage their expectation. It helps me too.
Do you feel you get enough support and training from WCC?
Yes. There is too much training to choose from!
If you transferred from another agency, why did you and why did you pick WCC?
I haven’t transferred but I could have considered other agencies when we were looking into fostering. The reason we didn’t was because we had heard that the CC offers better training, resources and support and also, we didn’t want our choice to be motivated my money. I gather some of the private agencies can pay more but it’s not a reason for doing it.
What is the one thing you would say to someone who was considering foster caring?
It’s very rewarding.
I recognise it’s not for everyone, but everyone can have a role to support a foster carer. If you know someone you think would make a good one, encourage them. If you know someone who is, cook them a meal, offer to babysit, take the kids to MacDonald’s to give parents a break, buy a pack of nappies, pass on baby clothes/equipment, help with school runs, bake a cake. These things have all been done for me and it’s what makes the whole thing so worthwhile. It takes a village to raise a child.
Day in the life of a foster carer
Joy write a regular blog on her fostering experiences.