The frontline of fostering

Nine years ago, with three children of her own and a husband who was very ill, Mandy knew that she needed a job based from home.

“I saw two boys on the television during Fostering Awareness Week and thought ‘I’m a parent, I’ve raised children, how hard can it be?’ Now I know that some children haven’t been parented and bring with them problems I had never experienced.”

For the past eight years, over 20 children came into Mandy’s home to be cared for. Some were just a weekend respite, one stayed for three years.

“We have got very close to some children and kept in touch. Some you connect to differently. You can’t explain.”

Mandy recently moved from being a mainstream foster carer into the more challenging role of Family Care Workers Scheme (FCWS).

“A boy came to us.  He was nearly five and had lots of issues and low self-esteem.  We said we’d look after him until his future was sorted out.  He stayed with us for three years.  His difficulties made us realise we could manage similar children with the support he would have had if he’d been on the scheme.”

Settling in gently
The process took about six months and last year Mandy and her husband were approved to be Family Care workers.

When a child arrives in our home, we are relaxed with them.  We let them settle in gently.  Very often, our own children break the ice.

“Each foster child has their own social worker and we have our own supporting social worker.  The children also have support workers. If or when the child moves to another family, his support worker goes with him.

“Most children have had so much loss and uncertainty, and feel they have little ability to change anything. Because of this we may meet aggression and defiance. We know that any display of bad behaviour is not personal to us.

“We have learnt good coping strategies from social workers and training courses.”

Rewards
“Some children will accept a hug, some take longer. The child isn’t angry with us. They’re disappointed. They feel bad.  The best part is when the child has succeeded in something; when they open up and are able to receive love, when they say that they are happy here.

“Money matters, and recently the payments have increased. It’s a job. We have to keep records every day, attend meetings, training and support groups.

“Foster carers stay committed to the young people even when they leave. They still care and support – so it’s way beyond finances.

“I like working with other foster carers and being part of the foster care community. We need more people, though.

“There’s a good chance that a child in a mainstream foster placement will be able to cope in later life but a FCWS child could struggle, so preparing them for the future is more of a responsibility – although, equally, that means more of a reward.”

If you think you have the skills and compassion needed to join the Family Careworkers Scheme please call 0345 155 1077 for an informal discussion or email foster@devon.gov.uk

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