Fiona and Paul’s Story

Archived: Posted January 30, 2017

‘’ I see the way foster children react in certain situations and I can only sympathise because years ago, that was me.’’

Fiona (35) and Paul (42) Oldfield from Enville, Staffordshire have been foster carers with Foster Care Associates (FCA) for one year.  Inspired by her own experiences of a child who grew up in care Fiona talks about the reason fostering is her passion.  She said:  ‘’I was put into foster care at the tender age of 14 which for me was a really negative experience. Having had a difficult upbringing, care was the last place I wanted to be as a teenager and it’s this experience that has driven me to be the best possible parent and carer I can be.

‘’In my early 20’s I came to terms with my situation, turning my past experiences into something positive for my life. It made me take parenting very seriously with my three birth children and when the time was right encouraged me to explore the idea of being a foster carer.

‘’My husband Paul didn’t know much about fostering when we first got together, but he is a great parent with a wonderful temperament and when I suggested fostering to him he was really open to it. I always wanted to foster but before we took the plunge Paul and I spoke to our friends and family.

‘’At first they were quite worried and had a really negative outlook about fostering. They began relaying ‘stories from hell’ which they had previously heard about such as abusive and difficult foster children, and the impact it can have on a family.

‘’We simply took no notice of these horror stories as I’ve been through what these kids have, and know that it’s not who they are, but simply a reflection of what they have been through. Knowing this I decided to give up my personal business and focus on becoming a foster carer full time as that’s my true passion.’’

Fiona and Paul began their fostering journey four years ago and transferred to FCA last year having had difficulties with other agencies. Fiona explained her choice to foster with FCA. She said:

’I’m a bit of a perfectionist, to be honest. Paul and I moved agencies a couple of times until we found the right match for us. In order for me to do my job well, I knew that the agency we were with had to do their part well too.

‘’We immediately felt confident working with FCA as they have a real child focus, having really high standards for the carers they accept and offer great support.’’

In the four years they have fostered, Paul and Fiona have looked after a variety of children and young people on different placements. Some on a short term basis, others as emergency placements. Alongside caring for their three birth children, including their daughter who is severely disabled, the couple currently have one young person in their care and hope to look after her on a much longer term with FCA.

Fiona said: ‘’Over the years we’ve experienced quite aggressive behaviour from some of our placements. A young person we looked after years back arrived on our doorstep having been expelled from five different schools and smoked at the age of 10. These kinds of situations are often the main challenges carers experience but I feel Paul and I have managed to turn this around really well in most cases.

‘’Having experienced first-hand what it’s like to be in care is definitely a wonderful tool for me to use when helping the children I look after. I see the way these children react or respond in certain situations and I can only sympathise and relate because years ago, that was me. I feel as though I understand them and their needs.

‘’Although we’ve volunteered to be foster carers and have put ourselves forward for the job, we need to try to remember in difficult times that these children didn’t volunteer to be put into care. Although they are moving into safer, better homes it still feels to them as though their world has been torn upside down. Being in care can often feel very alien. It did for me, all I wanted to do was go home.’’

Fiona goes on to describe the type of support the couple receive from FCA. She said: ‘’We find that FCA are so passionate about looking after their carers which is wonderful. They have such qualified, competent and caring staff who are there any time of the day or night if you need to talk to them.

‘’One of the children we looked after needed support with loss and grief and FCA didn’t hesitate to sort this out for us. They offer great support and sound, practical advice. ‘’

When asked about the kinds of reactions Fiona and Paul receive when people find out they are foster carers, Fiona simply described herself as a ‘completely ordinary person’ although others really admire and have nothing but praise for what the couple do.

When offering some advice to new carers, Fiona reminds them just how important it is not to forget themselves along the way.

She said: ‘’It’s very easy to forget yourself and your own needs when fostering. These children can have highly complexed needs and require a lot of attention. It’s so important to take time out for yourself each day, as in this career you don’t get to leave the office at 5 o’clock, the job is full time but extremely rewarding’’

Fiona goes on to describe a fostering moment she’ll never forget: She said ’’ Paul and I shared a really special fostering moment over Christmas. A young lady we looked after years ago posted a Christmas card to us. Enclosed was a letter thanking us for all our help, saying that she still thinks of us all the time and also asked how we all were, calling us her ‘west mids’ family.

‘’At first I had absolutely no idea who the letter was from. I didn’t recognised the writing on the envelope. Instead of dotting the ‘i’ on Fiona, the person had used a love heart. I openly cried when I saw who it was from.

‘’Knowing that we had made such a difference to a young person’s life and, that four years later they still remembered us really made Paul and I feel appreciated. In this day and age it’s so quick to send a text message or speak on social media, so the fact that she had taken the time to write and post something to us was so special.’’

Summing up her fostering experience as a whole Fiona says she is fulfilling a lifelong dream.  ‘’I don’t think I’ll ever stop fostering. It’s always what I wanted to do. Shutting down a well-paid business to foster is the best decision I have ever made. Money can’t buy the feeling of satisfaction I get from this role.

‘’If anyone is thinking about fostering I’d say to go for it, and don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way. Think carefully and be 100% sure before you commit as it is really hard work and it’s much better to know that from the get go than to let a child down.

‘’Fostering isn’t for everyone, but if it is for you, once you get through the initial 12  months you’ll start seeing the return, you’ll realise just how rewarding fostering is and from then you’ll never want to stop.’’

How can we help?

Ready to start fostering a child or young person? Or just want a bit more information to help you decide whether fostering is for you? All you need to do is contact us.

Phone us

Call us on 0800 023 4561 (lines open Monday - Thurs: 9am - 7pm, Fri: 9am - 6pm)

Fostering a child or young person is a big decision so we're here to answer any questions you may have. Our friendly fostering advisors, many of whom are carers themselves, can talk you through everything you need to know about becoming a foster carer.

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Phone us

Call us on 0800 023 4561 (lines open Monday - Thurs: 9am - 7pm, Fri: 9am - 6pm)

Fostering a child or young person is a big decision so we,re here to answer any questions you may have. Our friendly fostering advisors, many of whom are carers themselves, can talk you through everything you need to know about becoming a foster carer.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Call me back

Haven't got time to chat now? Leave your details and we'll call you back at a time that suits you:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • Why do we need this? So we can email you a brochure.
  • Why do we need this? We appreciate that starting to foster is a big decision that needs careful consideration and you are likely to have questions. We’d like to help answer those questions.
  • Please enter your postcode to see news and events in you area
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