Meet the carers

The fostering experience

Find out more about fostering by reading real-life stories from our carers and young people below.

Sophie has been in foster care since she was 11 years old. She’s now 17 and has been living with her current foster family for nearly 4 years. The foster placement is long term. Sophie’s younger sister also lives with them, along with the family’s adopted daughter Amy who is 16.

Fostering from a young person's perspective

 

I felt part of the family straight away when I came to live with my new foster parents.  My younger sister already lived with them, so I’d been to visit quite a few times and actually couldn’t wait to move in as the family are so loving and caring.

We are always laughing

 

As soon as I walked in I felt safe and cared for, and that I mattered. They’d got my room ready for me so I had my own space where I could take time out if I needed to, they knew how important this was for me. They were so patient, loving and understanding, and gave me the empathy I needed.

“It didn’t take me long to settle in, and it wasn’t long before I felt confident enough to talk openly to my new foster family and start having fun with them. We always have dinner together where we talk loads and plan our weekends and trips away, we are always laughing, it’s a lovely atmosphere. Since I’ve been living with them I’ve been lucky enough to be part of family holidays and have been to places I only thought I could dream of – I’m making some really great memories.

There's never a dull moment

 

They’ve had such as positive effect on my life. At the moment I’m in full time education, and I’m doing well!  A few years ago I never thought I’d be able to say that but my foster family have supported me through it and because of them I’m much more confident, and know if I work hard, I can achieve what I want to. They give me advice and encouragement along they way which has really made a difference.

“Although sometimes I don’t think it, I’m lucky enough to live with my sister. We support each other and I hope I’m someone that she looks up to. With Amy living here too, it really is one big happy family as my foster parents often have other children staying here in short term foster placements, there’s never a dull moment!

 My foster parents are my role models

 

My foster parents are my role models, and I know that I want to be a foster carer when I’m older because I want to make a difference to others like they have for me.  I never thought I’d be able to make plans for my future, but now I can and I know they will support me.  Being in foster care means I know what the important qualities are that a foster carer needs, and that’s definitely patience and understanding, and being loving and caring.

“I would say to anyone who is considering becoming a foster carer to go for it.  It will have a positive effect on your life, so stick with it through the challenging times and give a child the chances they need.  I feel so lucky that I’ve found my long term foster family and I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

Val’s story

Val Davies and her partner Paul Streeton have been remand foster carers since 2002. In that time, Val, 51 and Paul, 53, from Northampton have offered foster care to more than 20 young offenders who needed it while awaiting a court hearing.

Remand fostering

 

As remand foster carers, we look after young people who have been arrested on suspicion of an offence and are going through the court system. There are a number of reasons why they might not be able to live with their families – the police might want them out of the area because there’s a concern about reoffending or about witness intimidation, or perhaps the offences were committed against a parent. We applied to become remand foster carers because a friend of mine was doing it and she put us forward through a ‘recommend a friend’ scheme the county council was running.               

The first lad we had placed with us was brilliant. He was challenging but he came on really well with us and it helped us to see that fostering was something we really wanted to do.

Since then we’ve had more than 20 young people, some for just one night and the longest placement was for nine months. I have two grown-up daughters and they’ve both been really supportive of our fostering."

Supportive role

 

Our role is to try to encourage them to engage with something other than criminal activity and to ensure they keep any court appointments. Often it’s just about chatting to them and trying to get them to see the effects of their actions on the victims.

As a remand foster carer, you end up doing things you never thought you’d do, from going with them to court to meeting with their social worker and the Youth Offending Team. Often the lads will have curfews and there are times when you have to report them to the police if they break that curfew.

On paper some of these lads sound terrible, but when you meet them they’re not at all as you’d expect. Before long, you come to understand why they have behaved the way they have.

Some people might think we’re crazy to open our home to young offenders but the difference between remand fostering and normal fostering is that these young people understand why they’ve been placed with us – it’s because of their own actions.

We’re in touch with other foster carers so we can talk to them if we’re finding things tough. Also, I don’t know where we’d be without our social worker Mel – when she eventually steps down, so will we."

Building relationships

 

It is the young people themselves that make remand fostering so rewarding and the relationships you build with them. You learn to read the individual and when to challenge them and when to step back.
One lad we fostered is now grown up with four children of his own and he says he wants to be the type of father Paul is, which is lovely to hear.

Fostering is definitely something I would encourage other people to consider. Seeing how far some of the lads have come is really rewarding and working with them really puts a smile on my face.”

Alan’s story

Alan, 45, of Corby, was approved as a foster carer in November 2014 and has just completed his first placement, looking after a teenager who stayed with him for nine months.

 

My professional background is working with young people with substance misuse issues and I ended up as a project worker with troubled teenagers. I was promoted to a managerial position, which lead to me becoming somewhat detached from why I originally got involved with homelessness, so I decided the time was right to look into fostering.

My two boys have grown up now, so it was the ideal time for me to apply. My first foster placement was an emergency placement but he ended up staying with me for five weeks. I’m getting my next placement in 5 weeks, a 14-year-old on remand who needs foster care. I’m really looking forward to it.

Role model

 

I think my background working with young people has lowered my expectations in a positive way, because I know some of the issues they might be dealing with. That said, it’s different having a young person in your own home. Most of these lads have not had a positive role model in their life so that’s what I try to be. Fostering has given me the opportunity to feel valued in a more direct manner and to utilise the skills I have learned throughout my career.”

Colin’s story

Colin and his wife Jackie have been fostering teenagers for 12 years. They say daily life can be chaotic and challenging, but the rewards make it all worthwhile.

 

We applied to become foster carers after seeing a small ad in the local paper asking ‘have you got a spare room for a young person?’. We have a large house and we were not using all of the rooms, so we gave the idea some thought and then called the number.

We were then visited by a social worker who explained that we would need to be assessed for fostering and would need to do some training. The training was a bit of a revelation and we almost decided it wasn't for us, but we talked it over with our case worker and she put us back on track.

We don’t have children of our own but we were both brought up in large families. Within six months we had our first young person. We had been approved for three children and the house quickly filled up. For a period, we had four teenagers living with us and had to quickly buy a seven-seat MPV to get everyone into one car!"

Long and short-term placements

 

Some of the young people have stayed with us for many years and others for just a few nights. Two years ago when our last young person moved on to independent living, we were asked to foster a number of younger children. They have stayed with us and one is now a teenager with the other one not far behind. 

Family life for us as foster carers for young people is chaotic, challenging and rewarding on a daily basis. It’s never boring as there’s always something new to learn.

I have great fun taking them windsurfing, walking up mountains, off-road mountain biking and camping. Teaching them how to cook and prepare meals themselves is always enlightening!"

Adults in the making

 

Teenagers are already adults in the making and our role is to help them make the right choices for themselves. Watching teenagers grow, develop and express their own opinions is incredibly rewarding. We were there to give them a loving family life. Sometimes they needed more support, especially with their emotional development.

Our support network ranges from trusted people we can unload on, to other foster carers and support groups. I am currently chairman of the Northamptonshire Foster Care Association and the Male Foster Carer Support Group.

We also have a supervising social worker who we discuss everything with and she’ll organise respite if we need it. We organise practical help for ourselves such as a housekeeper, pet sitters (for the animals not the children!) and a dog walker."

Could you foster?

 

To be a foster carer for a teenager, you need to be able to accept the challenging times along with the rewards, but if you think you can improve the life chances of a young person I would encourage you to give it some thought."

Wayne's story

Wayne and his partner James were approved as foster carers almost three years ago. They provide a loving home for children who need short term foster care and adopted their first child in August this year. Wayne says he really enjoys the chaotic family lifestyle, it's become totally normal for him and James!

Wayne tells us:

 

James and I never thought we'd be able to foster or adopt. Being a same sex couple, we just assumed we'd be ruled out because of this, plus we both work – I work full time, and James part time.

We'd talked about it a lot as we both wanted children in our lives, we grew up in big families, plus we had room in our house and knew we could give a stable, loving family home to children from difficult backgrounds."

The most positive and rewarding experience

 

We saw an advert for a fostering open evening in our local newspaper and decided to go along to find out more and also talk to the experts about what we could offer.  We're so glad we did this as being approved as foster carers has changed our lives, plus the lives of vulnerable children.

It's the most positive and rewarding experience for everyone involved, and we’re learning something new everyday.  There were no barriers for us, the approval process was really positive.

We've been foster carers for 3 children over the past few years, and were fortunate enough to be able to adopt a 5 year old boy this summer.  While we were going through the adoption process, our foster carer role was put on hold for ten months, it felt like the longest ten months of our lives, we were itching to get back to it!"

Enjoying the little things

 

For us, it's the little things that make a big difference, when the children start to say 'please' and 'thank you' it means so much and you know you’re doing a good job, it's so important to be good role model for them as they haven't had that.

You’ve got to be there for them as they have good days, but as you'd expect they have really bad days too, but you learn to deal with these as you go along.  Sometimes they just want to talk, other times it's about managing their behaviours, I'd say that you definitely need a thick skin to be a foster carer!"

A network of carers

 

You have to see each child as an individual, what works for one probably won't work for another, but you learn to adapt to their needs.  You get the training you need to do this, plus everyday is different so you are learning all the time.

There's always help if we need it from our social worker at Northamptonshire County Council, and we've built up a good network of other foster carers which is really useful as sometimes you just need to chat with someone who has been through what you’re going through.

All the children we've fostered are treated as our own children, we're all part of one big family, if we've got a holiday planned then it's their holiday too and we make Christmas really special for them.  They see our grandparents and friends, we don't want them to feel different.  Yes the lifestyle can be chaotic and unpredictable, but we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way!"

Take the next step

 

We've found that there are lots of people who are interested in being foster carers since we've been doing it, but for some reason they haven't made the next step of finding out how they could do it.

I'd say to anyone thinking about it to not hold back, it's the most brilliant role you could ever do, and you could be the one to turn a child's sad start in life into a happy ending."

​Kim and her husband Phil have been fostering children for over three years now. They can’t remember what life was like before fostering and think it’s the best decision they ever made!

 

I grew up with fostering around me, one of my close friends’ parents fostered so it was always a big part of my life. I knew it was something I would eventually end up doing as I’m passionate about giving children a brighter future – the future they deserve.

We’ve been foster carers for children on short term placements over the past few years, and at the moment we’ve got two boys living with us on a short term fostering placement. One is eleven years old and one eight years old.

One of the boys needs a long term foster home, so we’re currently being assessed as long term foster carers as it would be ideal if he could stay with us. They fit into our family so well, and since they came to stay with us you can see how much their lives are improving, they are really going in the right direction."

Support and training

 

Yes there are challenges every day, but Phil and I have built up the skills to deal with these, we couldn’t have done this without the support and training from Northamptonshire County Council, and the fostering community is just brilliant.

There’s a strong network of foster carers in the area, and we turn to each other for help and advice, we are always helping each other out."

A family decision

 

For us, deciding to become foster carers was a family decision. We’ve got two children of our own who are 18 years old and 10 years old. They are wonderful role models and the children we foster really look up to them.

I take my hat off to them, they are involved every step of the way, are happy to share and most importantly they want to be part of helping to change children’s lives for the better."

Working parents

 

Before we enquired about fostering, we thought we’d be ruled out because although we have the room in our home, we both work. Phil works full time and I’ve got two part time jobs.

Thankfully, after being assessed, this didn’t stand in our way because even with being working parents, we still have time and space in our lives to foster and the hours we work mean there is always someone there for the children."

Go for it

 

I really couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do, I would encourage anyone who is thinking about it to go for it, if it doesn’t work out, then at least you’ve given it a go, but I bet you will never look back.

It sounds silly, but seeing children being allowed to be children and helping them deal with different situations and become confident individuals is the most rewarding job you could ever do!"

​Caz and her husband Steve have been fostering now for four years. They are short term carers who also look after children who need emergency care. Caz tells us it’s hard work, but to see her foster children smile and laugh makes it all worth it!

 

We’re currently foster carers for two baby girls, one is nine months old and the other is 12 months so we’ve really got our hands full! But we love it and wouldn’t change anything for the world.

My mum used to foster children when I was growing up, so it’s something that’s always been a big part of my life. I loved having different children staying at our house and helping my mum out, and even though I wanted to be a police officer when I grew up, I guess my vocation in life has always been to be around children."

We've never looked back

 

I was working at a warehouse when I saw an advert in my local paper inviting people to an open evening to find out about becoming a foster carer. We've got two children of our own and fostering had to be a family decision.

We couldn’t have started the process if everyone in the family wasn’t committed, and thankfully everyone agreed that it was something we should do. We’ve never looked back since we were approved as foster carers and have given 12 children a loving home over the past few years."

So much to enjoy

 

There’s so much to enjoy and it’s so rewarding knowing that you have helped a child through the healing process which is different for each and every one of them. You see lots of different behaviours, some are very withdrawn and quiet when they come to live with you, whereas others are overpowering and have attachment issues.

Each child is unique and you learn to adapt quickly to their needs and start to build trust, and then they let you in.

When you see their personalities starting to shine through it really makes you proud and you know you’re doing a good job. And the best bit is when they are eventually ready to live with their new family, although that can definitely be the worst bit too, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions that’s for sure!"

Patient, flexible and fully committed

 

Every day as a foster carer is so different, what works one day probably won’t work the next day so you have to be patient, flexible and fully committed, and a good support network is essential.

I'm lucky that I have a great understanding family and my neighbours are brilliant, and I’ve got lots of other friends who are foster carers, plus I couldn’t do it without the support and training that we get from Northamptonshire County Council.

The best job in the world!

 

Being part of making such sad stories really happy endings makes all the hard work worthwhile. I’d say to anyone considering it not to hold back and make the call today – it’s the best job in the world!"

Sarah has been a Family Link carer for Northamptonshire County Council’s Family Link for 20 years. She looks after children with complex needs to give their families a break on a short term basis – this could be for a few hours or a few days at a time.

A family decision to help out

 

I really love children and there’s always been a special place in my heart for children with disabilities. I used to work on the children’s ward at my local hospital and at a school, so I’m used to being around children with different needs and have gained lots of experience looking after children with different conditions such as Down’s syndrome, autism, ADHD and other complex health needs.

I saw an advert for Family Link carers and knew I had a lot to offer so was keen to find out more. I’m married with my own children and two step children, so it had to be a family decision for us, I have to say that it was an easy decision to make, and we’ve never looked back since I was approved. It’s been so good for all of us, we all help out!

I’m currently looking after three different children on a rotational basis. This includes overnight and day care.  However long the stay, I tailor it to them and make sure it will be a good break for them. With disabled children, you have to go at their pace and settle them into a routine so they feel supported.

Supporting the children's families

 

They have all been coming to stay with me for a little while now so I have built up a good relationship with their families.  It’s so important to do that as it helps makes sure the care I give fits in with their needs as well as the children’s. Each family is different and so I need to be flexible in how I work with them. For some parents I may need to reassure them their child is fine during their stay, or that I am looking after their child in a way that they are comfortable or familiar with.  Parents need to have confidence in my care of their child and to know that if I am worried at all, I would contact them.  Building up a good working relationship with families is very important and is something that develops over time.

You have to take an individual approach for each child as they are all so different. We plan lots of activities to keep them busy, and while they are staying with us I want them to feel part of the family.  I make a photo story book for them to remind them of all the fun we had together and to help them remember us for when they come to stay again.

The support I’ve had from my social worker since becoming a Family Link carer is brilliant.  I know she is always there if I need her, which is so reassuring. There’s also a support group that’s great, and lots of training courses which are tailored to the different needs of the children we look after. I’ve recently completed some refresher courses including dealing with epilepsy and first aid, so it’s all really relevant, I’ve learnt loads. I am also included in any meetings about the child, so am able to contribute to these and also learn more about the child as a result which helps me support them better.

The good thing about being a Family Link carer is that you can build your skills and knowledge on the job and you learn lots from each child about their condition and how best to support them.

Rewards outweigh the challenges

 

It can be emotional at times, and there are challenges along the way, but the rewards far outweigh these. I’ve had some tough experiences but have always come out the other side, and when you see how well the children are doing, you know it’s worth it.  You’re making memories with them, and that’s so important.  When you see them when they’re grown up and they remember you and talk about staying with us it melts my heart! It’s then you see you’ve made a difference in their life.

When I tell people what I do, they always have so much admiration and many say it’s something they would consider doing in the future.  I say to them don’t put it off, get in touch with the council now, there are children who need you! You can make it work for you and your family, it doesn’t have to take over your life. It’s such a positive thing and you’re giving a child the opportunity to learn and grow as well as giving a family some much needed time for them.

 

Have you got room in your life to foster?

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