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Hannah’s story

Posted on: 13 September 2018

A woman and two children sitting on the floor playing cardsHannah has been a Devon foster carer for almost two years, she has looked after siblings on a short-term emergency placement, an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child (UASC) and other children who have since returned to their parents. She currently has two lively ten-year olds who fill her time and home simultaneously.

Hannah and her husband raised three children of their own, and whilst these have now grown up and left home the couple realised that they weren’t quite ready to have the house to themselves. They felt lucky enough to have two spare rooms and the space in their hearts to foster, and to do it well.

“An average day with two ten-year olds in the house, is as you might expect, hectic but much like that of any normal household. Then you factor in things like contact arrangements with birth parents, reports, recording medicines, meetings with supervising social workers, regular reviews for education and general care and you start to see that fostering is much more than being able to love and care for a child.”

Hannah shares what first led her to think about becoming a foster carer.

“On applying to become a foster carer the only qualifications I had were raising three children of my own. I’d been through various dramas with them and my own childhood was quite traumatic, moving between parents quite a lot.

I was looking forward to being able to offer a child stability where they may not have had it before.”

Hannah always knew that fostering would be challenging but has found that the support and training from Fostering Devon has given her confidence and made all the difference.

“I knew it was going to be challenging. The challenges I was expecting were child focused in terms of how their life experiences would have impacted on their behaviour and overall personality.

I believed that the rewards of fostering would be seeing a child happy and settled with a smile on their face. I think I was honestly most surprised about the pay. We did not come into this for the money and I think we were pleasantly surprised!

My children and immediate friends and family totally supported our decision. Whilst sometimes it can feel that social workers and other professionals overlook the fact that this is 24/7 for us as foster carers and we do not switch off and go home for the evening, we have had the best support from our supervising social worker Briony. Building up a relationship with her has been the best thing for us because she will support us, but equally pull us up if we are getting ahead of ourselves, or not seeing something clearly. Additionally we have built great relationships with the majority of the social workers and other team members involved in the care of the children.

The training and development offered by Fostering Devon has been second to none! I could not have continued fostering without the training. The Nurturing Attachment 18-week course was an eye opener.”

Hannah finds foster care incredibly rewarding, and whilst only a couple of years in, she already has some massive achievements that really standout for her and the children.

“There are so many rewarding aspects of being a foster carer. I can only go by my own experiences and so my top three would be:

The day our UASC was granted his Leave to Remain after a year of interviews with the Home Office, one rejection and an appeal.

Learning to understand anger issues in an 8-year-old boy, taking a statement literally (don’t see the behaviour, see the child) and labelling his anger for him.

The day a 9-year-old suffering from encopresis asked me if he could go to school without a pad in his pants and to wear boxer shorts instead, he’s been clean now for 8 months.

Whilst fostering hasn’t exactly been the way Hannah imagined it would be, she is clear that her focus has remained the same since the start.

“Having said it isn’t all the way we had imagined it would be, watching a child change, become more confident, blossom and grow in your care – that’s all I imagined it would be.

I believe we offer stability and consistency that the children haven’t had in the past, apart from our UASC who had that at home, for him I think we offered a safe place. In fact, we offer all children that. And in the longer term I think we offer them the chance to grow and improve their self-esteem and self-worth.

When asked whether Hannah sees foster care as a ‘career’ she explains more.

Two boys sitting on the floor leaning against a wall“Define the word ‘career’? ‘An occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.’ So in the true definition of the word, yes, fostering is a career. When we chose to foster, we knew we would be doing it for a significant number of years because you can’t take a child in, build relationships and then just hand your notice in!

With that said, it is more a vocation because you do really need to be invested in fostering for it to work for both you, your family, and any children that you will take into your home.

Fostering is emotive on so many levels and you will find yourself reflecting on many parts of your own history, your personality and parenting skills. I’ve been surprised by the therapeutic style of parenting compared to how I parented my own children.”

For anyone that is thinking about becoming a foster carer, Hannah explains some of the qualities you need to have, and would she encourage others to go for it?

100% yes!

“You need patience, tolerance, the ability to be reflective, offer love, kindness and have a thick skin. Be open-minded, be ready for change. Having someone else’s child in your home will mean that life is never dull. Be pliable but most of all continue the journey you are considering because whilst it can be a rollercoaster, it’s an exhilarating ride!

Talk to other foster carers first, friends of friends, and get the real story.”

And finally, what had made her smile this week and what makes her get up in the morning?

“Well, my two ten-year olds make me get up in the morning! Many things have made me smile this week. One child filling in their MOMO (Mind Of My Own) app with all the positive things about our home and family, another having a birthday and being like a dog with two tails after receiving ‘the best present ever’…