Hi, my name is Mary. I am a dinner lady at my local school. Being a dinner lady helps me to have a constant income alongside my fostering allowance, because I only receive a fostering allowance when I have a child on placement with me.
I felt I could make a difference, having brought up my own children but also by being surrounded by children every day. I believe I was in a position to offer children and young people in care the opportunity of a stable home and a nurturing family to support them through any difficulties.
My school have been very understanding and supportive of me as a foster carer. They understand the role and allow me flexibility required to put the needs of my foster children first. I am given time out for reviews, medical appointments, and any other meetings to be an effective foster parent.
I took the plunge to become a foster carer three years ago, after speaking with an advisor from Fosterline. That conversation was the best encouragement I needed. From there, they were able to signpost me to their ‘find a fostering service’ so I could find the right fostering agency for me.
I now wish I had made enquiries earlier as I have gained so much from both the assessment process (where I was able to reflect on different aspects of myself), and also successfully supporting two separate fostering placements. I had one teenager who was 16 years of age, and I supported him to develop independent skills and move into his own home. More recently, I helped a 14-year old female to learn to begin to trust adults. She had been let down by them so many times in the past and been taken advantage of.
The assessment process was a little daunting. The assessment went into detail to ensure my parenting and attitude would be best suited to fostering, but also they did checks on my background, medical history, and sought references from the school. My social worker met with my adult children, other family members and friends.
I had to go to a panel of professionals at my fostering agency. They read my report and asked questions. Their decision was a recommendation to the Agency Decision Maker to approve me as a foster carer. I was officially informed a couple of weeks later that I was approved. Understandably I was both worried and excited.
I was so excited when my 16-year-old foster placement was arriving. I made an effort to make his bedroom appeal to him. He was tired and not very talkative, which might have appeared rude to some people but I understood his behaviour. With patience and humour we forged a good relationship over the next few months
My second placement was a challenge. She was 14-years-old when she arrived and had experienced a very traumatic past, treated badly by the adults in her life and taken advantage of. Her behaviour meant she didn’t understand risk from adults, and placed herself in dangerous situations – this is all she knew.
I tried many approaches to build up our relationship; thankfully after one year, I am beginning to see small changes such as better communication and improved school attendance. In spite of the challenge, I have found it rewarding, and I look forward to caring for more teenagers in the future.
The most rewarding part of being a foster carer is seeing the turnaround that can be made for a young person who has been through some very traumatic experiences.