Jan and Derick’s Story

Archived: Posted August 23, 2016

Looking after somebody else’s child

(please note names have been changed to protect the identity of foster placements)

Every year, tens of thousands of children across the UK need foster carers while they can’t live with their own families.  That means thousands of new foster carers are needed every year.  Here we take a look at one Basildon couple’s inspirational journey.

Nikita, aged 33 has lived in the UK for 13 years.  A suspected victim of human trafficking, she is now mother to an eight year old girl and a two year old boy; but hers is not a happy story.

Nikita’s daughter lives with a close friend under a private fostering arrangement; Nikita has a chronic illness – kidney and pancreatic failure – which requires her to have dialysis three times a week.  Her baby boy was born at 28 weeks and needs to be fed via a tube; while in hospital he contracted a virus which has left him with chronic liver failure and heart disease.  In order to survive he is on oxygen 24 hours a day and takes 11 different medications, which are spread over 24 hours, two of which have to be taken every four hours.

Despite the obvious difficulties in her life Nikita feels secure in the knowledge that she lives with a supportive family – she lives in foster care with Derick and Jan Wood two foster carers with Foster Care Associates (FCA) from Basildon, Essex.

Jan explained: ‘My role is to support Nikita and her baby in any way I can, emotionally and physically.  I make sure she is suitably supported when she attends her many different health appointments.  I also need to make sure that when she is in hospital having dialysis, I am on hand to take care of George.  This involves making sure he has his medication and attends all his necessary GP and hospital appointments.  They both lived in hospital until George was 14 months old and have no contact with the father at all.

Jan and Derick Wood, foster carers from Basildon

Jan and Derick Wood, foster carers from Basildon

‘George has a number of developmental problems – speech and language, feeding and swallowing, cardiology, respiratory, gastronomy and neurological; I work alongside Nikita to encourage him to attain the goals set by different health professionals.  Although the placement was originally only for 49 days, Nikita and George have been with us for nine months and the placement is ongoing.’

So how exactly did Derick and Jan get involved with fostering?

Derick said: ‘We thoroughly enjoyed bringing up our own children and we worked well as a team.  We wanted to offer the same opportunities to those children who were less well off than our own.  We spoke to our children about possibly fostering and although they were cautious we decided as a family to do some research.’

This was when the Wood’s came across FCA and they were immediately impressed with the structure and support offered to both the children and young people in the fostering system and the carers looking after them.

Jan said: ‘When we had made the decision to apply to become foster carers through the FCA, we had a wide range of reactions from ‘You must be mad!’ to ‘We couldn’t do it!’.  We explained that we would receive specific training from the FCA and would receive ongoing support as would the children and young people placed with us.  They all agreed to support us as a family unit and for this we have always been extremely grateful.’

Derick and Jan’s first foster child was a boy of 10 years old; Joe had lived with numerous families since being taken into care at the age of five.  Although he was extremely challenging in many respects, he had a warm and loving nature which – over the two and a half years he lived with the Woods – became more and more prevalent.  However, the relationship eventually broke down and when Joe moved on, the Woods took in a 16 year old girl called Ruby who suffered from an eating disorder and who was self-harming.  The situation rapidly changed when Ruby became pregnant one year later; when her baby was born she then decided that she was not ready to be a mother.  Heart warningly, although Ruby left to live with another carer, she asked if Derick and Jan would care for her son.  Archie lived with the Woods until he was 10 months old when he went to live with his paternal grandmother.  Now 2 years old, Derick and Jan have a loving and warm relationship with Archie and have regular visits from him, his grandmother and also Ruby.

So what skills and attributes are needed to become a foster carer and make a real difference in a child’s life?

Jan explained: ‘The challenges of being a foster carer are many and varied as each child or young person is very different, requiring you to adjust, be open minded and most of all non-judgmental.  Although it can be emotionally challenging, on the flip side we have learnt so much about those who come to live with us and also about ourselves, our capabilities and limitations.

‘The support we have had has been absolutely superb.  Our social workers are always on the end of the phone and willing to visit when we have needed that little bit extra.  The training is excellent and has included specific training in order to help us make the transition into a mother and baby placement, which was invaluable, as well as a series of therapy and reflection sessions which we have found very beneficial.  The out of hours service is excellent and all FCA’s staff that we have come into contact with have been friendly and professional.

In summary, Jan said: ‘We have been part of and witnessed some incredibly moving moments.  When George came out of hospital he was terrified of everything; he would sit surrounded by toys simply not knowing what to do.  He only felt safe when he was in his cot.  And although he’s attached to both an oxygen and feeding tube for 18 hours a day, he welcomes you with a big smile and outstretched arms.  It is heart-warming to say the least!’

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

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