Judith’s StoryArchived: Posted June 6, 2017
“Laura says I understand, she can tell me anything and that I am completely non-judgmental ”
Meet Judith, a 56 year old from a small village in Lincolnshire.
It’s 2010; Judith and her partner Paul had what many would describe as a perfect life. Paul was a retired quality controller in a factory and Judith as a mental health nurse working in the community which she thoroughly enjoyed. They had been together for a very happy 14 years, with exciting plans to move abroad when Judith also retired.
But tragedy was about to strike which would change Judith’s life forever. In May 2010, Paul was tragically killed in a car accident. Killed less than a mile from the cottage they shared, Judith felt as though she simply couldn’t live there anymore and her brother kindly offered for Judith to live with him and his wife, a few miles south of Grantham.
Judith moved to her current location in Lincolnshire in December 2010; in her words, she felt she ‘had lost her way’ and so in 2012 she took the decision to retire from her much loved role within the community and threw herself into volunteering at St Barnabas Trust and Oxfam; this, she hoped, would help her grieve and adjust to being without Paul.
Three months later, she was asked to work within the Older Adult Community Team and before long was promoted to Team Co-ordinator working full time.
But Judith felt the need to do something else, something as worthwhile and challenging as the job she had done within mental health for 33 years.
Adopted herself, Judith decided that she would like to foster, hoping that she would have some transferrable skills to offer. She duly applied to Foster Carers Associates – or FCA – and so began her journey to fostering; she was assessed and trained over the next few months and in March 2016 her application was approved.
Judith explained: “I chose FCA because of the excellent help and support package they give carers; its unrivalled level of such support really sets it apart from other agencies. Having worked in the health arena for many years I understand the need for assurances through regular supervision and training.”
Judith remembers the 24 June 2016 very well; it was the day that she – along with her Chocolate Labrador Winston – welcomed 15 year old Laura into their home.
Laura was initially placed into care one year earlier in 2016; the process for her was an extremely traumatic one and the placement subsequently broke down; she was moved again into another placement for a month and then into respite care.
FCA decided that Judith would be a perfect match for Laura with, among other attributes, her mental health background and the fact that she was a sole carer.
Judith explained the reactions she received from family and friends when she announced to them her decision to foster. She said: “My friends thought that I was mad for fostering but they have been very supportive. I have a small family, my son Jonathan, his wife Hayley and their two sons, James who is six and Elliott who is ten months old. I have a brother Martin who is married to Sue and my two nephews Thomas and David. My family have all been totally supportive. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see my grandsons as much as I would have liked in the early stages of Laura being with me as she had both attachment and trauma issues. However, she has become a real member of the family now and is much more comfortable with them. Grandson James absolutely adores her!
“And my neighbours have been great; in fact most people I meet are very interested in what being a foster carer actually involves.”
It hasn’t all been plain sailing of course. Overcoming challenges is par for the course. Judith explained: “My biggest challenge has been making the adjustment from being a health care professional to being a foster carer; the two roles are so very different. At the beginning, Laura would say to me that she hated my mental health background, but now – after 11 months – she says that it has helped her as she feels I understand, that she can tell me anything and I am completely non-judgemental; in fact, we joke about how we are ‘practicing’ on each other and learning from our first experience of being in care and being a foster carer!
“Laura is currently accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and has said it helps her knowing that I know both the service and the team she was referred to.”
Another challenge was around Laura’s education; she didn’t transition well into the school environment having been out of school for most of the time from when she was 10 years old. Judith explained: “I hold strong values around the importance of education. I’m pleased to announce that Laura is now hoping to go to college where she is hoping to study Beauty Therapy and achieve her Level 1 Maths and English. It has been, and still is, very stressful for her and I am eternally grateful for the support of the team around her; she is a very bright girl with much potential and I really want her to achieve good educational outcomes before she leaves care.”
There are, however, many positives for both Judith and Laura.
Judith said: “I love it, I love having Laura and her friends in my house and I am so supported in learning to help Laura. We now have a puppy too – Ted, a yellow Labrador – and Laura calls him ‘her little teddy bear’; she has learnt a lot about loving an animal and the unconditional love she receives in return from both Ted and Winston.
“Other highlights include a trip to London by first class train in December last year which Laura loved and wants to do again!
“Another wonderful moment was on Laura’s 16th birthday; I took her and her friend out for a meal to a ‘posh’ restaurant. Zoe said it had been the happiest day of her life.”
On a personal level, Judith finds time to enjoy her own hobbies and interests. She said: “As a sole carer, I don’t work but am always busy and for the past year I have been the secretary for our village Gardens and Allotments Society which has felt like a full-time job! However, the hard work has all been worth it; the site opened in April and looks fabulous. I always have flowers in the house and it will be great to grow my own to bring back here in time.”
Judith concluded: “I have offered to contribute to a Journey to Foster training with FCA for new Carers next month when I want to be able to share my experiences and be positive around no matter how good the preparation and support is nothing can prepare a person for the day a child is placed with them as no two children are the same and life changes completely the day one starts to Foster. I hadn’t anticipated however much I wanted to care for a Young person that that Young Person has been through so very much trauma that she doesn’t want to be cared for by a stranger and cope with being separated from her birth family, feeling potentially very stigmatised too by the ‘care’ label until she is 18.
Laura and Judith are now planning a celebration in June to mark their first anniversary.
There is currently a shortage of foster carers in Lincolnshire who can offer a loving home to young people like Laura. For more information on becoming a foster carer with FCA, or to find out about recruitment events in the region, call 0800 022 4330 or visit www.thefca.co.uk
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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.