Real fostering stories

Racheal James kinship foster carer

Hi, my name is Rach.

My husband and I, Ben, have been kinship foster carers for nearly 6 years.

A kinship foster carer can be anyone who already has a family relationship and bond with a child or young person, such as: grandparents, aunts, uncles, God parents or a close friend of the family who look after children and young people when their parents are unable to care for them due to unfortunate circumstances.

An image of Gaz and Dee

Tragically, my brother Gaz passed away in 2006 aged 29 and my sister in law, Dee passed away in 2012 aged 38. They had three amazing children who they loved very dearly. When we reminisce, there are many happy memories and family photos we all look back on. Looking back I never thought for one minute that, that would be our families’ fate. If we all had a crystal ball and we could see what the future holds, we may have done things differently, maybe made different decisions, taken different paths in life, or just lived life more in the moment. Life is so very short, that’s the beauty and sometimes the tragedy of life.

When I look back on my own childhood it was far from perfect, but all those life experiences have helped me be the person I am today. Today I am supported by an amazing husband who has helped me battle my own demons, along with depression and anxiety. He has supported me endlessly in raising all our amazing incredible children.

I think it’s easy in this day and age to be judgmental in life but no one in this world is perfect, we are all the products of our past experiences in life, whether they’re positive experiences, negative one’s or a mixture of the two. We all have different levels of resilience which is what determines how we deal with life’s inevitable ups and downs.

The beauty of kinship care is that the relationship, support and unconditional love are already there; I have always been a part of the boys’ lives. I can remember holding them in my arms the day they were all born, consoling them, feeding them and babysitting them. We all have so many memories to share which helps to keep their parent’s memory alive and also helps us to heal. Nothing is taboo in our house we all talk freely and openly.

The initial fostering experience was difficult; there are highs and lows. Your whole life is put under the microscope, including, the way you parent your children, which can make it feel very personal and intrusive.

I totally understand for safeguarding purposes that it needs to be intrusive. Luckily Ben and I were fortunate that we had the support of family, friends and the boys fostering social worker, Sara Brown, who has gone above and beyond to support the boys. The day we were approved it felt like we had won the lottery and we all celebrated.

Nearly six years on and It fills us with pride to see the successful young men that our boys are becoming, our love for them has grown even stronger and we love them and naturally treat them as our own. They have achieved so much, have grown as individuals and are far more resilient and confident than they used to be. Raising six children is hard work and there’s a lot of nagging and counting to ten involved! Our birth children have been incredible and have taken the whole family situation in their stride. I am amazed at how they have all gelled together and luckily for us there haven’t been any major issues other than normal teenage hormones.

Rachael James and her familyOver the years I have attended every course going. Doe Goodwin knows me on a first name basis. The courses have really helped me look at things from a different perspective and to improve my parenting skills. I have met some lovely Foster Carers whom I think are very selfless, caring people. It has been really refreshing to be able to relate to them and to share similar experiences.

The most helpful course has been the Attachment training; it was so eye opening and insightful and I think everyone would benefit from doing it. Worcestershire County Council has also paid for me to do a Residential Childcare Diploma which was really hard work and time consuming, but very rewarding, especially when I completed it!

Our kids are our ‘pride and joy’ and personally I can’t think of a more rewarding thing to do in life than to try to make a positive difference to the lives of a child or young person, to support them to create a bright, loving, happy and successful future.

If I was going to give any advice to a potential kinship foster carer/foster carer I would say go for it, there is plenty of help and support in place if its needed, I would also say make use of the courses, activities and support groups that are on offer. Try to be as kind to yourself as you are to your children and others, prioritise time for yourself too, to do the things that you enjoy and that make you happy.