Fostering helps you grow too!
Rachel Brown, our recruitment and development officer, chats to Mary, one of our amazing foster carers about why she fosters, the rewards, the challenges and what helps make it all worthwhile
So Mary, could you share how you came to be a foster carer with us and how did you find the process, particularly as you were assessed during the Covid pandemic
I previously fostered with an independent fostering agency but decided to move over to foster with the local authority for a number of reasons. I found Helen, who was my assessing social worker to be very knowledgeable and experienced and we had many interesting conversations! I found the assessment process to be a really positive experience. As it was during covid, we had a mixture of face to face meetings and online calls which was a good balance for us both.
I guess I came to fostering originally because it was something my family had done back in Kenya, where I grew up. My father was a headteacher and there were times when we would have different children stay with us if their parents were struggling and needed some help. This was when fostering was far more informal than it is now! So I was bought up to always consider, if I was in a position to, how I could help other families if they needed some support and to look after children in vulnerable situations if the family needed it.
I believe you have fostered young people who have arrived in the UK without their family. How has that been and what would you say are the challenges and rewards of this?
Yes, I am currently fostering a young person who came into the UK from Afghanistan without family. He was fortunate in some ways as his journey wasn’t as traumatic for him as I know it is for many, he is also in regular contact with his parents, which is so reassuring for them to know that he is with me and being looked after and is safe and happy. I think all parents worry about their children, are they learning, are they eating, are they happy? So for them to be able to see that he is OK is great for them and of course for him too. He has settled into mainstream school and has been helped with his language and is coming on really well.
I think the biggest challenge by far is the language differences. We have found a brilliant translating app which is really helpful and there is a lot of gesturing and other creative ways we have learnt to communicate! Because it was planned that he was coming to live with me, we were able to meet before alongside his social worker and work through some things that would make him feel more at home, such as learning to cook some Afghani dishes and being aware of some cultural norms that were different to mine. It really is a learning experience for me as much as him!
The rewards, well where do I start? Watching children develop and grow and seeing their confidence in themselves rise. It’s never their fault that they need a foster carer, and they are often so timid or frightened to begin with, then with the hard work and day to day care you realise that they are growing up- and watching them complete their studies, go into business and work in different industries being strong and competent and knowing that you helped them to be able to do brings incredible feelings of satisfaction.
How have you found the training and support to allow you to foster?
You really develop as a person when you foster. The training, the access to experts, living with children and young people, it all brings positive change to you and your understanding of the world. The support has been amazing, although my social worker always tells me I am an expert now, there is always something new to learn and I know that they are there for me to help with any questions or situations that I just want to check about, or see if there is anything more I can learn. It’s great to have different training too, some is online, some is held locally with other foster carers and team members as it is good to learn together too.
What would you say to people who are thinking about becoming a foster carer?
If you are interested in making a difference to vulnerable children and have patience and of course a spare room, then speak to the team. I think there are lots of opportunities and benefits for fostering at different points in your life, so even if you have your own young family you will find that fostering can work and it will give you some really good skills that can benefit yourself and your children too. Children need to be safe and to be given opportunities, sometimes that means that they need to be cared for by a foster carer. I know we need more people to do this so by coming forward everyone benefits
To find out more about joining our growing fostering community, get in touch with the team today. You can drop your details onto www.coventry.gov.uk/foster or call us on 024 7683 2828
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