'My friend said: 'The young people you have supported have enriched your life!' So true. I just hope I have helped to enrich theirs'

Louise, one of our foster carers, shares the highs and lows of fostering and caring for teenagers

As a 48 year old, I was running my own business, enjoying life, but felt something was missing. I had always thought about fostering from the age of about 30 when I discovered I couldn’t have children. I thought as a single person this would not be possible but now I know different!

I registered my interest and received a phone call from Diane who came out to visit me. We discussed my reasons behind wanting to foster and what it might entail over a cup of coffee and cake. It was so relaxed and I could ask questions (I had so many) and Diane was able to talk me through the process.

The assessment process took about 6 months with lots of background checks and at times seemed quite intrusive but it was great to see how thorough they are to ensure I was suitable to look after the children and young people who would be placed with me.

There were many discussions about what I thought fostering would look like for me and how I might be able to manage work around looking after the children in my care. Luckily working for myself I can be quite flexible. I built my business and reputation over 6 years and it is a big part of my identity. I was concerned it may not work for the children in my care, but it does (with a few adjustments and some very understanding clients when unexpected events crop up).

Children drawing As a former primary school teacher, I had thought that I would care for younger children but since being becoming a carer, I have mainly supported teenagers. This was daunting at first and comes with some very different challenges, but it turns out that I really enjoy supporting the older ones!

What a rollercoaster it has been too. An amazing journey over the last 16 months. Highs and lows of course, but the highs definitely outweigh the lows.

Teenage girl looking at cameraCaring for my first young person was definitely a shock and I honestly wondered what I had agreed to. Never have I had to learn so much so quickly. I thought I could handle children but 1:1 24/7 is very different to a class of 30!  I started with time limited placements and giving respite care and have had 15 children stay with me over that period of time. Every one an individual. I now have 2 long term teenagers 15 and 17 who are an absolute joy.

Laptop being used for training The support I have received from the team has been great, as difficulties never arise during office hours so I feel I have got to know quite a few of the ‘Out of Hours’ duty team very quickly! Some of the things I rang about in those first few weeks were to seek reassurance I was doing the right thing and get advice. Sometimes it was a case of ‘x has happened, what on earth do I do?’. With hindsight, I was very anxious and just knowing there was someone there at any time of day or night was all I needed. They made suggestions, told me steps I could take, what to do, and most importantly would ring me back or text later to check how I was getting on and make sure I was ok. They were always there to make me smile and see the lighter side too – you need a sense of humour!

My supervising social worker has been great at keeping me grounded. Many a time I thought… “I can’t do this!” and my SSW has made me see the highlights and reminded me why I wanted to do this in the first place; the small steps of progress that are huge. The range of professionals involved with our children and young people are amazing, from teachers and teaching assistants, to inclusion managers, and pastoral care at school, to activities and support offered by virtual school, social workers, independent reviewing officers to name a few. wins and make it all worth while.

The children and young people we care for are going through such a range of emotions and such a scary experience – new home, new person/people, new rules and routines. It is a lot for them to cope with. We need to be the gentle, kind, caring person who is there to reassure them, offer safety and security and support them. This can be very challenging but very rewarding too.

Trainer writing on a whiteboardThe training available is fantastic, supportive and non-judgemental. Foster carers come together and share their experiences and are able to gain the tools to support their role. I’ve discovered that no question is ‘silly’ and there is a wealth of support out there from other people in the same role. Once we were able to meet again, it was wonderful to be involved in the new foster carers coffee mornings. These are something I missed in my first year due to the pandemic which would have helped to connect me to other carers. They are informal, open and relaxed to ask questions, find relevant support and share ideas.

A friend I was chatting to the other morning said something very apt: The young people you have supported have enriched your life! So true. I just hope I have helped to enrich theirs too.

 

The fostering team at Coventry

 

We hope you have enjoyed reading about Louise's experiences fostering with Coventry City Council. To order a free information pack, please pop your details onto our form. Or you can call the friendly team on 024 7683 2828. We also hold regular information events- you can find details and book on here 

 

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