I started fostering when I was 24. It might seem quite young but having not had a ‘normal’ upbringing myself (my grandparents raised me), I knew from early on that having stability and someone to believe in you were everything and I really wanted to give that to others.
I’ve been fostering for 14 years now, looking after 18 children. I also have three children of my own as well who are 10, 8 and 3 months. One of the most common things people say to me when talking about fostering is that they couldn’t do it because it wouldn’t be fair on their own children. My response to that? Not true at all!
Being part of a foster family makes my kids the amazing little people they are. They (not the three month old, yet!) have incredible emotional intelligence – I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say theirs is at a higher level than quite a few adults! They are kind, patient and get that we’re not all the same and haven’t had the same chances in life. They understand that there are often good reasons for a child’s unusual or ‘bad’ behaviour.
One of my kids was having a tough time at school from another pupil and her response, when discussing it with the teacher, was to ask if the pupil was okay because she thought there must be something not right for them to behave in such a mean way. The teachers always praise my kids’ compassion and empathy and I believe that our fostering family has already helped their development and will help them to be better as people as adults.
The other thing that often gets raised as a reason against fostering is the potential trauma when a foster child leaves a family. I won’t lie, when a child has been part of your family and you’ve put your energies and love into supporting them, it can be tough. But tough times, and of course bereavement too, are part of all of life. It might sound a bit strange, but my children have experienced these feelings in a safe environment and with those who aren’t family or deeply connected to them. I see that as a positive. And of course, we are always pleased for a child going on to a new, positive chapter, sometimes their forever home.
I fully understand why these things cause doubts but, as someone who’s fostered for years, I can tell you they’ve not caused us, as a family, any issues, quite the opposite in fact. Obviously, fostering is a huge undertaking but I don’t think anyone should let this stop them from finding out more and, hopefully, experiencing all the good things fostering can bring to family life.
Denise Chappell is a foster carer with Slough Children’s Services Trust
If Denise has inspired you and you are interested in becoming a foster carer then please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0800 0730291. One of our advisors would be happy to talk to you about fostering in more detail and perhaps start you on an exciting new journey.