Having raised four children to adulthood in our previous lives – my husband and I have two children each – the two of us often talked about “giving something back” and how we would like to foster children to help provide them with a good future where they can be proud of themselves and be successful in life however they interpret that. However, having been together now for nearly 12 years, the building of our new home, settling in and living life got in the way.
During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in March, the subject came up again. On the news we heard that foster care families were needed as COVID-19 was having a devastating effect on some families. This time, we started to do some research. All four of our children had now left home and have good jobs so it seemed that our work there was done, and the nest was now empty. Having previously been a volunteer mentor for young people, I loved the interaction and light bulb moments they had as I helped enable them to achieve the things that they wanted to; I still keep in touch with one of my young mentees some 13 years later.
Our research led us to a fostering agency who explained that it would typically be a six-month process to carry out an assessment and checks before we would need to sit before a panel for approval.
We were introduced to our assessment co-ordinator who delved into every part of our life for the next four months. Every address, every school, every job from when we were born until now. I can’t remember what I did yesterday, so this was quite a challenge as I have moved 14 times during my life! This all played out alongside the backdrop of COVID-19 and the fact that the agency representatives were not allowed to visit us or do much of the paperwork required. I was encouraged by the support we received from Blue Yonder who promptly provided references during the assessment. Many, many Zoom meetings were held both together and separately and after a long day at work, the last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of the laptop again or complete yet more forms! These sessions brought both tears and laughter as we replayed many moments from our lives that had brought us together to the life we now shared.
There are two reasons for a child to need fostering: either because their birth parent is unable to look after them and requests for them to be taken away for a period of time or because they have been abused and have been taken away from the birth parents by the courts. Either way this can have a traumatic impact on a child’s life. Armed with this news, there were times when we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into, but the three-day workshop for new foster parents dispelled that as we heard from children themselves about their experiences and how being a “Looked After Child” had changed their lives.
As we enter into this opportunity to foster, we bear in mind the words that one “looked after child” shared: “Don’t greet us with lots of smiles, excitement and happiness as the reason we are here is not a happy one.” We look forward to welcoming a child into our home, and turning their experience into a happy one, where they feel they belong and feel safe in a world where they have felt anything but.