Meet our families
Fostering stories from people within Worcestershire.
Hannah, I was once in care
Hannah joined her mum and dad at the age of six years old, she admits herself she found being adopted a little overwhelming in the early years because of having the memories of being with her biological family. This was due to having had so many moves in such a short space of time, and suddenly being told that this would be your ‘forever home’. Hannah remembers several months after being adopted, asking her ‘Daddy Michael’ if she could just call him ‘Dad’, which seemed like a key turning point in acknowledging that she wouldn’t be moving again.
At 18 she herself became a mother, she felt a lot of societal judgment being a teen parent but for her the focus was on being a role model to her son, providing for him and being the best parent, she could be for him. This made Hannah reflect on the parents that her Mum and Dad had been to her. ‘I suddenly realised why my parents had brought me up the way they had, and I endeavoured to bring my son up in the same way with their support and guidance.’
Whilst raising him and with the support of her parents she worked around his routine, she took jobs that gave her flexibility so worked in care work, hospitality and housekeeping. Hannah knew what she wanted to do when her son was older but was waiting for the timing to be right.
Now with a 14-year-old, three stepchildren at 13, 15 and 19 years old, Hannah has a BSc Honours degree in Psychology and Counselling, she is studying to complete her Masters in Social Work with the intention of working with foster children. ‘I want to do more, I know how it feels to be a child with a status of being in care, for me, I always felt like I wanted to be more than the label. I wanted to put my own experiences to a positive use. I wanted to prove people wrong, to prove that being in care is nothing to be ashamed of and there is success after care. I want to be relatable, supportive and make the difference as a social worker’
Hannah feels that her life experiences have shaped her into the person she is today, she feels her experiences have given her resilience and she knows herself well and is secure that she can face life’s challenges. She looks forward to working with children and young people who face adversity and challenges, she looks forward to motivating others and encouraging them to believe in themselves.
‘All too often you read negative narrative around children who are in care, where are the successes of our children? How does this perception make and motivate them to be more, to have aspirations and to believe in their abilities? Anything is possible with intention, dedication, patience and communication, and I want children in care to see this and, more importantly, believe it. I was once in care; as a foster child, I was a mother as a teenager, now I add I am a graduate of BSc Honours in Psychology, soon to be a postgraduate with a Masters in Social work, I am a mother, stepmother and a partner. You really can be anything no matter what your start was like’.
‘I would like to say how grateful I am to my parents for coming into my life and changing the course of it completely. I couldn't ask for better parents, grandparents, or role-models. Without people like them, so many children wouldn’t have such a good future to look forward to. I can never put into words, just how much they mean to me.’
Jo, a day in the life
A day after our little whirlwind arrived was nativity. An unexpected event in the diary but delightful nonetheless as he waved at me through the glass door dressed as an angelic donkey. He ran up the aisle to me to cuddle me on route taking a break from carrying Mary!
He then proceeded to get on and off the stage to cuddle me throughout the performance much to the annoyance I am sure of his class teacher, but each time he was running with a huge smile each. The hillside scenery nearly fell down halfway through because as they were singing you are my sunshine to Jesus (!) our little whirlwind decided to launch himself at one of the workers. Shocked but also a bit amused I tried to keep a straight face as I observed this new little person who was in our family for an unknown amount of time.
Our next little adventure we went to buy shoes, but Clarks wasn’t there any more so we found some nice wider fitting brown pumps in Next after he excitedly tried on every pair of Spider-Man flip flops the store had in stock and ripped off each tag as quick as a flash, I gave endless apologies to the staff in Next and we half scuttled around feeling half chased out the shop. After exiting, or being ushered out of the shop, I went right to M&S for a wander and a cafe treat. Escalator excitement, dinosaur clothes he fancied, Percy pig wrapping paper, what am I buying?!
We lined up and paid for our goods, I stooped down to pop some things in my bag, still holding his hand, he managed to jump and swing round for another cuddle, knocking me onto the floor in slow motion. At this point he’s worried, I can’t stop laughing and can’t help but feel like Mrs Bouquet chasing a rabbit! We had a lovely time together in the Café, after I had spent 10 minutes persuading a very strong minded four-year-old that four chocolate paw paw lollipops and two cakes were not what we would be eating for lunch. He sat very nicely eating and drinking and looking at the dinosaurs on his new shoes.
We got in the car, I told him we were going to see his mummy and his brother. He told me with a smile what his brother’s name was, it sounded like it could have been a nickname so I wondered what it may be short for. He said he wanted to see mummy, but not go to her house. I took him into the room, he ran to her and held on tight, his brother was stood beside her in his blue school uniform, the same colour as mum’s hair!
I’m sat in the car catching my breath, a whirlwind day hence where his nickname whirlwind has come from. All of the above may I add has been the first 24 hours of him being part of our family. He came to us in an emergency, we took the call, said yes and then an hour later a little whirlwind arrived. I reminisce looking at the contact centre, the place our adopted son used to go to see his biological family, but then I find myself laughing at the scene on Marks and Spencer’s floor whilst eating Percy pig fizzy tails, reading a little of the Christmas radio times and feeling a festering of emotion in my stomach. Welcome to the family our little whirlwind boy, for now!
Anne, the importance of support
I find being a foster carer a rewarding job, but it can be challenging. In order to provide the best possible care for the children I look after, and to provide the children with stability, security and a positive experience of family life, I need to be well supported by my fostering service and people around me.
I work as part of the Team Around the Looked After Child, and need to be supported by others in that team to ensure that the child receives the best possible care. The level and type of support that I need may change with each child in placement and at different times.
Being a foster carer for eight years, I understand the challenges and emotional toll that fostering can bring to a family, but I do believe that there are steps that foster carers can take to prevent burnout and make their fostering experience a more positive one. One of those steps is to create a strong support network.
Fostering brings challenges that are not understood by a lot of people. Even the most supportive friends and family will not be able to truly understand some of what I will be going through and there may even be things that I cannot share with them due to confidentiality as stated in the fostering contract. This can make fostering a lonely road.
There is something I can do in order to ensure that I do not feel like I am by myself. I can get support from other foster carers. This is important as other foster carers will not question my sanity for deciding to foster children I may only have for a short time or loving children who are hurting. They will support and encourage me. They can also give advice or encouragement with difficult situations that they have perhaps dealt with before. You can talk together about dealing with the struggles associated with caring for a child with FASD and other problems, also share ideas on what has worked for each of you in the past.
A benefit to getting to know other foster families, is that they have to abide by the same confidentiality. You can get together as families and you will feel less “different”. Once you are fostering, your family will probably look different from typical families. It can be disruptive and noisy. You can get stares and questions when you are out in public. Getting together with other foster families makes you feel more normal.
I have found having the support of other foster carers helpful, especially in times of crisis or transition such as a difficult placement, grieving for a child who has left, or investigations. Their encouragement, experience from having gone through similar situations, and ability to support is important. I run the local support group where I meet other carers and share experiences, learn from each other and get to know others who can become part of my support network. Other ways we can meet carers include, training sessions, mentoring and buddying schemes. All these give opportunities to meet with other carers, to learn from each other, to talk through problems in order to reduce potential social isolation and to talk to those with a shared understanding of the issues.
Ashley, fostering teens
I am Ashley and I have been a specialist teenage foster carer for the Placement Plus Scheme for the past 3 years. I was in care myself and lived at Downsell Road when it was a Children’s Home. I was also raised by my grandmother. My early life experiences are one of the main reasons I wanted to become a foster carer.
As an adult I worked for 20 years in Downsell Road with older young people and most of the residential homes across Worcestershire. I have 4 birth children of my own and worked full time whilst bringing up my children as a single mother. At one point my daughter’s friend lived with us for 7 years as well.
I decided to leave my role as a residential worker four years ago, because I wanted to care for young people in a more personal way, rather than in shifts. I remember thinking I would have loved to take some of these children I was working with home with me.
I generally foster kids aged 14 or 15 years old. I like teenagers because they are at a stage in their lives where they are finding themselves and I like being part of that journey. It can be difficult for children who experience trauma and loss in their teenage years, but I enjoy being part of that transition. You need to be consistent and strong, as they often feel they are falling apart inside. My social worker gets back to me quickly and is always there for me. She is a highly experienced person and we regularly talk in a lot of detail about placements.
The best thing you can ever have as a foster carer is a sense of humour. You need to be very broad minded and having attachment training is crucial because you have to remember these children were created and you’ve got to try and unravel some of their layers. You have to look beyond the challenging behaviour and remember them when they were younger. I often do this by looking at photos of them when they were much younger, you can see they have often experienced a very frightening world.
Ashley is pictured above, left, with fellow Placement Plus foster carer, Michelle Aldred.
Marie and Mike our fostering journey
Marie and Mike have been fostering for over 12 years. After having adopted their own children they decided fostering would be a natural progression for them. They had worked previously with Worcester Council adoption team and have always felt throughout that they have been fully supported by the teams they have worked within, especially their fostering social worker and line management.
The couple within their last 12 years of fostering have supported more than 17 children with their move onto their adopted families, as well as provide support for short term, emergency and respite fostering also, ‘Fostering can be very challenging but to see a little person develop, thrive and move to a new family or back home is so rewarding’.
Their fostering social worker has worked alongside them during their fostering carer and says,
‘Mike and Marie work hard to provide a nurturing environment for the children they care for and work positively with others to achieve a successful move for the children whether it be going back to family or moving onto adopters. They will say the best thing is being able to see some of the children they have cared for and to still be a part of their lives and see the progress and attachments they have made. Their own experiences adopting their children have supported them in challenging situations, they are resilient, positive and work towards supporting others starting their fostering journey.
Sarah and George, our journey so far
Prior to starting on my fostering journey I was working as an Events Manager. I'd worked there for over 10 years, but after becoming a parent I struggled with my role. I was required to be away from home and it was difficult being away from my son George. Overtime I knew I needed to re-think what I wanted to do and when I became a single parent it became more important to make a change.
I knew I wanted to do something that would allow me to be around for George and as I started thinking about what to do, fostering really jumped out at me. I knew I could be at home for George and that we as a family could make a huge difference providing a safe and loving home for a child or children in need.
I was approved in September 2015 and to date we have fostered 10 children, provided respite and daycare support to other fostering families. Now I am a long-term foster carer and I am about to be matched with two boys that I have been fostering for nearly three years. I am a single carer, but I couldn't be a foster carer if George wasn't onboard 100% because he is a foster carer too. He is a massive support to me as we are in this together.
Having a good support network outside the home is essential, having a good working relationship with both my Fostering Social Worker and the Children’s Social Worker is imperative to ensuring the best outcome for the children. Attending local Worcestershire Children First Fostering support groups and the children’s events really helps to build friendships and extend my fostering network. I have developed great friendships with a number of Worcestershire Children First Foster Carers, and we meet up regularly for coffee to catch up and be there for one another.
When I look back on the last seven years, our journey has been filled with highs, lows and lots of love. I honestly didn't know what to expect when I started fostering but it has definitely been the best, life-changing decision I have made. I believe that fostering has helped George to grow into a kind, caring, empathetic young man. It has helped him to understand how fortunate he is and how he can contribute to helping others.
I am very passionate and proud of the work that I do and I did encourage one of my closest friends to embark on this wonderful crazy journey. I knew that as a family they would be brilliant foster carers and they have proved this having recently transitioned their first child to adoption.
Caring for a child and then helping them find their 'happily ever after' is the greatest feeling, but it is also tinged with sadness because the foster carer is experiencing a loss. It was never my plan to become a long term carer because there are so many children within Worcestershire that need help. However, once it was confirmed that the boys would be requiring a long term placement, I knew that staying with George and I was the right choice for us and for them. Fostering is unpredictable and not knowing when the next child may arrive can be worrying, especially as a single parent. The process to be approved as a foster carer takes all of this into consideration and I have and still would advise many people to explore this as an option for them and their families.