Foster carers tell us about themselves, why they decided to foster and their experiences.
Lauren and Danny
Lauren and Danny have been fostering for almost 5 years and are currently fostering an older child and a teenager as well as having a 6 month old baby of their own. Lauren explains in her own words their fostering experience.
"I began my career working in family law and had represented parents whose children were in foster care. This gave me a real insight into the start some children had in life. I felt children deserved a better future.
When we applied to be foster carers we both worked full time and were assessed initially as respite carers. Since then I gave up my business as a fish and chip shop owner to become a full time foster carer. I was worried about going from having a guaranteed salary to zero salary – when we sold the shop we didn't have a placement but within three days we had a sibling group.
Before we started fostering we had no childcare experience other than taking care of nieces and nephews for a couple of hours. When I changed my career, and bought a fish and chip shop, the business was located close to a secondary school and I feel that my experience in the shop had helped me learn to build up a rapport with teenagers.
Both our fostering placements are part of our family and having our baby recently has helped cement the family and the given the boys a role as older brothers.
'You can see the change in their confidence. I feel like I've found my vocation'
We do prefer teenagers as they generally want to talk. It might take a bit of probing but they'll usually tell you what's wrong, and you can have a real laugh with them. The main problems we have experienced have been around drug use and going missing from home - and a bit of back chat but you expect that from teenagers!
You can make fostering as busy or not as you like; depending on how much you want to get involved with it as a whole. I have a routine, I get up with the boys and ensure they have eaten breakfast and are sorted for the day ahead. I am involved in lots of support groups as well as being on the committee for Rochdale's celebration event for young people. We've done a lot of training which is invaluable when you don't know what issues a child will have they come through your door.
I find the children's achievements at school the most rewarding, whenever a child achieves anything at school, for them just to be normal and as good as their peers is really rewarding. They don't have to pass their GCSEs fantastically but if they've improved we feel a real sense of pride. You can see the change in their confidence. I feel like I've found my vocation.
If you're thinking about fostering do it – or at least enquire and look into it. It's been the best thing we've ever done".
Susan has been fostering 15 years and she mainly fosters new-born babies. She explains in her own words how she juggles fostering with her job a gym instructor.
"I came into fostering when my own children were grown up. I thought – I'm not finished with that! We're really physically active and are always out and about.
When I got my first new-born I was worried about asking work for the time off and expected them to ask me to leave. But they said 'that's amazing' and gave me three months off. Now I am able to increase my hours when I've not got a placement to allow me and my husband time to have a break. Sometimes it all gets too busy and I think I'll give one job up but I can never choose. To get that job satisfaction from something you enjoy is great.
I've had around 10 placements in my time as a foster carer. I initially fostered toddlers but now I mainly look after babies from birth. I find that it's important that to develop their brain in that first year and it's so rewarding seeing them meet all their milestones.
'You get out what you put in'
I also have 5 grandchildren under 3 and an older granddaughter who's been really supportive of fostering. I thought I'd give it up 12 years ago when she was born but she says to me, 'now it's up to you whether you carry on but I think you should'. She loved every minute of helping out and there was never any jealousy.
It takes each placement a few weeks to settle down but we usually have them for about a year before they go back to birth family or to adoptive parents. I've been lucky that I've always been happy with the decision made for each child and we've always kept in touch after they've moved on. It helps you recover as you do get attached and it can be upsetting when they go. You can build relationships with the families though. You get out what you put in.
When I've got a child in placement my day usually starts with going to the gym first thing and then teaching a couple of classes and getting home in time before my husband needs to leave to go to work.
I find that the children are the easy part of fostering and that the stresses of the job come with all the appointments that need to be kept. It works because you've got a relationship with the people you work with. We've had the same worker for over 2 years and she knows us very well.
If you are considering fostering and you're in a relationship you'd need to both want to do it. I can't think of anything better to be doing, I'd still want to do it if I was single. Whenever you've not got a placement you can go off and do something fun. We go and do skiing and snowboarding.
I just get so much out of it. I feel like it's what I'm good at".
"Tina has been fostering for over 5 years, bringing foster children into her home with her own kids. In her own words she explains her family's experience of fostering.
"Before I became a foster carer I worked for Rochdale Council, I saw the recruitment advert for foster carers and when I enquired I was surprised when someone called me back and invited me to an event.
For me the decision to become a foster carer was a simple one as I like children, I had 2 already and felt I had a lot to offer. I could do it so why don't I? In my time as a foster carer I've fostered 6 children. In the first couple of years I took short term placements so she could see if fostering was right for me and my children. You do worry; what if they don't like you or the kids don't like them?
'My children have been really positive and treat their fostered siblings as part of the family'
I don't think I had any preconceptions about what would be involved in getting approved but didn't realise how involved it would be. I understand why they need to go through all that and they even assessed our two pets! They take into account the ages of your children so I was approved for children between 5 and 11.
My children have been really positive about having foster children in the house and treat their fostered siblings as just part of the family. Our current foster child has been with us 4 years now and it's just normal and boring family life now, there's the usual sibling rivalry around. At our annual review it was really sweet to see what the kids had written about having foster children in the family – what they'd say to someone else when I wasn't around.
I do find it rewarding. It's the little things that people might think insignificant. Like the times they come to you and hug you or to ask your advice. And when you see them grow in confidence. It's also rewarding to harness the talents you know they've got. I forget she's my foster child.
When you see the 3 of them together, all very different and with different hobbies and interest but they'll sit down and talk, chatting confidently together, and it's all normal. She doesn't feel any different and still moans about the same things the other two do, she has the same worries and concerns. She's the same as every other kid. She deserves the same and has the same hopes and dreams.
The highs and lows of being a foster carer are the same as being a parent. Because I already had kids I was all set up for swimming lessons, Beavers, Cubs etc. I wouldn't say my lifestyle changed too dramatically when I started fostering.
Before I started fostering I thought the children I'd be caring for would be more difficult, with behaviour problems. I didn't think they'd come skipping through the door.
The most difficult thing is when the kids are arguing, but that's the same for any parent. It's hard to say goodbye to them when they leave, even when you know it's a positive step for the child. You miss them when they've gone too and you worry about whether they're doing OK.
I think if people are considering it they should just find out more about it. Everyone I spoke to was really friendly and you've got nothing to lose by taking that step and getting in touch to find out more. Just take that step and do it".
You can foster too!!