Cheryl and David's Story
The pride that you have when your child takes their first steps. The worry if your baby has a raging temperature. The knotted feeling in your stomach if your teenager hasn’t come home and isn’t answering your calls. Fostering is an emotional business, and I say business lightly, yes there are apocryphal tales of people making a living out of fostering but if money is your motivation, I’d work out the hourly rate for 24 hour, on call, childcare versus a shift at your local fast-food restaurant before you apply.
Fostering is parenting, investing in a child, taking your love, time, energy and pouring it into a child only in this case the child may arrive in the middle of the night with a bin bag of assorted stuff and leave you a week later or arrive straight from birth and break your heart when they move on years later.
We have been a fostering family for over ten years and fostering family isn’t a cliché, we as a couple, our children, our wider family and close friends have all been part of taking care of (on a quick count) fourteen children. Each one comes as an individual with an often awful back-story and we do all we can to give them a happy, safe home.
The details are hazy now, but we were inspired to foster by friends who found themselves looking after their niece, the circumstances were complicated and very sad and our friends had a young family and were given very little support. We had previously considered adoption before our twins arrived in 2006 and It may sound a quite pompous thing to say but we started fostering because we were in a position to give something back to wider society and help kids that needed it the most.
The last decade of fostering whilst not a Hollywood style fountain of joy has been thoroughly enjoyable and has made this family the brilliant band of people it is today. We are terribly proud to see the way that the children we have looked after are now growing up in their new families. The first boy that came to live with us arrived at three days old and was adopted eighteen months later, his leaving was like a bereavement indeed we still refer to adoption transitions as ‘big sunglasses week’ – you need something to hide the tears and puffy eyes. He is now living a wonderful life in rural Wales, his parents are great friends of ours and we look forward to seeing them for long, fun weekends. We know that both birth parents and adoptive parents have different approaches to the relationship their children have with their previous carers and we accept that we may not be part of their lives, we know though that we did our very best for them.
If you have time, patience and don’t mind occasional public humiliation when a child in your care does something outrageous in a supermarket you will get the support and training needed to be a foster carer. You often don’t realise that you need support and quietly get on with your own lives but this year in particular has been very difficult for many people and our little group of carers have kept each other sane through the lockdowns, I’ve even become addicted to the ultra-competitive Zoom quiz every week. The benefit of these formal or informal support groups to foster carers can’t be measured but have been very special. Our social workers have done a very good job in very trying circumstances and we have built very strong working relationships with any number of childcare professionals in the last ten years. The training that you receive, and the preparation is first class, there are group sessions covering topics from early life trauma and attachment, child development and working with children with additional needs and there are experienced foster carers to mentor you through the process. I’ve even quite enjoyed the online training modules, which in my job in the ‘normal world’ usually drive me to distraction.
We are an everyday, run of the mill, fostering family, many of our friends think we are mad to do what we do but becoming a fostering family is rewarding, fulfilling and quite simply the best thing that we have ever done.