People always have a lot of praise for foster carers, saying what amazing work we do and how we make such a difference to young people but there are huge benefits to being a foster carer too. There’s nothing better than having a bigger family and, for us, it’s a chosen family.
We’ve been fostering for almost 10 years now and it’s given us so much, really enriching our lives. We’ve grown as people and we see things from a very different perspective. For example, before fostering, if we saw a naughty child in the supermarket, we’d think they were just acting up and needed telling off. Now we understand that there’s often a much deeper reason for difficult behaviour, whether that’s challenges the child has or their life experience and trauma.
With a number of the kids we’ve looked after, we’ve seen that difficult behaviour when they first come to our home. Often it’s triggered by asking them to do something simple, like get their shoes on or lay the table, and they can get very argumentative. We’ve learnt over time, that this is often because the child has never been taught to do these things –one teenager couldn’t lace his shoes but how would you know, if you’ve never been taught? Or maybe the child has picked up bad habits, which aren’t socially acceptable but no one’s told them that during the early years of their life.
When you identify these things and work with the kids to show them how it’s done, it can feel like a real breakthrough. Giving these young people life skills is really rewarding and you can often break a cycle which would otherwise be passed on, if they go on to have their own kids in the future. A big part of this role is also being a good listener. The simple question, ‘How has your day been?’ and then giving them the time to tell you, feel that you’re interested and they are valued, is a huge deal.
Lots of foster carers come from having worked with kids in some way. Not us! We had sold our businesses and wanted to do something to benefit the community but weren’t sure exactly what. Then we saw a billboard in Slough about fostering and, well, the rest is history and we’ve never looked back! We’ve had more than 30 children placed with us from between one week and eight years and currently look after three teenagers.
As a foster carer, there’s lots of support from the Trust and that’s been a really positive thing. We receive great training that’s been so valuable for some of the situations we come across, including mental health training.
We’ve also worked with the Trust to set up a whole new support network for some other foster families over the last year. It’s based on a model from the United States called Mockingbird and it aims to provide a kind of extended family. We are one of five families in the group and we are the hub family, so once a month we have all the kids over for sleepovers and we all go out as families to do activities like climbing or bowling – the kinds of things aunties, uncles and cousins might do together. The kids have all had similar challenges in life, so they are very comfortable with each other and it’s great to see those bonds building. The adults also support each other, whether that’s being there to listen or pitch in with childcare now and then.
For us fostering has become a real vocation, it’s our life, it’s made us who we are and we wouldn’t change a thing!
Sam and Des Cox are foster carers with Slough Children’s Services Trust
If Sam and Des have 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.