Judith and Michael’s Story

updated at 11:27 am, November 6, 2017

“We’ve had plenty of rewarding moments, but the best one was when our foster children declared they loved being here with us because they felt a part of the family.’’ 

Judith (57) and Michael Sweet (59) from Southampton are long-term foster carers to siblings after actively seeking a worthwhile career change.

The couple have always been dedicated to offering support, from raising their own family, to caring for others in their previous job roles; Judith is a retired teacher who also gets involved in plenty of charity work including overseas missions, and the primary carer, Michael, had a full-time job repairing wheelchairs but decided he wanted to do something even more rewarding before he retired.

Michael said: “Judy went to a local Christian meeting and listened to a speaker who was encouraging families to open their homes and give a young person a chance in life. I was also looking for a change of career and felt it was something worthwhile we could do together. We had experience of bringing up our own family, a good skill base between us and a large family home to share, and so we decided to explore the idea by researching fostering agencies for more information.”

The couple opted for Foster Care Associates (FCA) as their chosen fostering agency after a family friend recommended the support offered to carers.  Since embracing life as foster carers Michael and Judith have received excellent support from those closest to them.

Michael continued: “Our friends and family supported our decision and encouraged us throughout the process. Some told us to think about the lifestyle change but we talked through issues, such as friends and family coming to stay with us and Judy being able to go abroad on her overseas work, but ultimately decided fostering was the best and most rewarding option.

The support given by FCA

“We had a lovely supportive assessor to guide us through the process and we also had carer support groups where we met with other carers to discuss experiences and share knowledge, as well as a four-day training course. When we became foster carers, FCA gave us a supervising social worker and there are carer reps to support you.”

The Sweets understand the impact fostering has upon a carer’s life as Michael said: “It’s a life-changing event, and it’s important to be organised and adaptable to ensure time for both you as the carer and the children. It’s not easy in the first few weeks but it’s necessary.

“As new foster carers we have to recognise that we are carers and not parents and therefore have to remind ourselves and the children of our safer caring rules, meaning there are things we would naturally do in our family setting, such as tickling, that we are unable to do as carers.

“We’ve had to set boundaries too and ensure both of us know these because the children soon learn there are weak spots.  There is a lot of learning, recording and training to do but it is very interesting and rewarding. It is a steep learning curve at the beginning, but it is worth it in the end.

“When we tell people we’re foster carers, people are very positive. They generally think it’s an amazing thing to do but at the same time say they couldn’t do it. We have also had people tell us that they wouldn’t have known because we look like a family having fun together, which is really fulfilling.”

Fostering tips

Judith and Michael are keen to encourage those considering foster caring to research the options available and not to shy away from the opportunity.

Michael concluded: “We’ve had plenty of rewarding moments, but the best one was when our foster children declared they loved being here with us because they felt a part of the family.

“When thinking about becoming a foster carer, it’s important to find out as much information as possible from resources, other foster carers and fostering organisations. All avenues of fostering, such as through the local council, independent agencies and charities, should be considered before deciding the most appropriate option for the carer’s needs.

“We encourage potential carers to be open to the views and advice of friends and family and not to be put off by any horror stories as they are outweighed by the positive testimonies of people who have been on the journey and say they wouldn’t do anything else.”

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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