Fostering case studies - Jeff and Christine`s Blog

Foster carer Jeff from Barrow talks about his fostering journey

The question I am asked more than any other is why? Why do my wife and I choose to look after children that are problem children from within the care system?

Truth is this is a question I used to ask myself even when my wife suggested fostering while our own children were growing up. Between 2009 and 2016, as part of my job, I spent a lot of time in the car travelling with the radio on and I regularly heard the call for help on the Bay and CFM radio stations from Cumbria County Council. 

Some of the stories touched me so much so that I agreed to go with my wife and investigate what fostering was all about. We attended a drop-in roadshow at the Forum in Barrow which was a very informal affair meeting a couple of existing carers and a local social worker. All provided a positive view of fostering so my wife and I began our journey.

There have been some ups and downs while going through the recruitment process but it has also been a very informative and rewarding process; actually learning some skills and information that would have come in very handy while bringing up our own children.

There are many types of fostering, something that you learn while attending the fostering skills for life training programme and my wife and I decided to start with respite fostering otherwise known as assisted support care (ASC). This is where you provide cover for other foster carers so that they can take a break if needed for example there may have been a death in the family or a carer may need to undergo a medical operation where they can't look after the fostered child for a period of time.

My wife and I have been fostering now for 4.5 years and have enjoyed every minute. All the children we have looked after have been lovely well behaved children. I agree that in our case many of the children have spent time with other foster carers and had boundaries and family life brought back into their lives in many cases. This is not to say we have not had some minor issues but they have only been minor and there has always been support from the social worker network available to us.

We have plenty of room available in our house now that our own family is grown up and we started fostering by agreeing to look after 4 - 11 year olds and by using a bunk bed we agreed that we could also take siblings. This age group aligned with my wife's and my own working patterns, (my wife works in a school). It wasn't long before my wife identified that during school holidays we could take children with an age from birth to 4 and not long after this we were also asked if we could take an older child so now we are cleared from birth to 18 years. But in agreeing to these ages we have made it very clear that we review the children coming into our lives before they arrive. This is part of the safeguarding plan for our household. We have a grandson who also stays with us and we need to make sure things are right at home while we have the foster children to stay. Social services are very supportive of this and will spend as much time as you require so that you can get a full understanding of the child and their needs when they come to you based on their previous knowledge of the child since they entered care.

We have undertaken many activities with the children we have looked after including visiting the lakes, various attractions and Blackpool Circus which my wife and I have enjoyed as much as the children. Not all activities have been away from the home and my wife likes to show the children how to bake when they stay with us and many like to return back to their main foster carers with a small present for example a gingerbread man or fairy cake.

So far all the children that have visited us have asked to pop and see us again which make us both feel that we have given something to these children and at the same time this supports the fostering family as other carers can take much needed breaks.

I think anyone who has room to take a child and enjoys what children can bring to a family should consider fostering. In many cases just like many things in life the challenge starts at the beginning but becomes more rewarding as it begins to develop and flourish. If anyone could do that for a child then it has to be worth it doesn't it?

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