Norma’s story

Archived: Posted April 25, 2016

Norma Etherington from Worcestershire has been a foster carer for 34 years and was among the first to be trained in Foster Care Associates’ (FCA) specialist step-down placements. This innovative programme helps young people who have spent a long time in residential care to successfully transition to a foster family. Here, she talks about her experiences as a foster carer and why she thinks step-down placements are so important.

“I’ve been fostering for such a long time and I knew a step-down placement was something I could do. Like any placement it is about making the right match and when I met my first young person on the programme I knew it would work. Very quickly they became part of the family. Having spent a long time in residential units, these children are looking at families from the outside, like looking through a window and they so deserve to be part of one.”

Step-down placementsFollowing the success of Norma’s first step-down placement she would be happy to do it again: “It has worked well and I’ve really enjoyed it. I think it could work for others too. I would advise them not read too deeply into the young person’s profile – I never have as we didn’t have them when I first started fostering. I just focus on getting to know the young person and building a rapport.”

A local news report about an abandoned baby going into foster care was the catalyst for Norma’s long career as a carer. She began fostering with her local authority and joined FCA more than 20 years ago in its early days: “I got to know Jan Rees through a carers’ committee and when she set up FCA with Jim Cockburn I joined them. I feel part of the organisation and do all the training that’s available. Even now I think there’s something new to learn. The step-down course was invaluable as the trainer really helped me to see things from the child’s perspective.”

In Norma’s opinion, time is the most important thing you can offer as a foster carer. She explains: “It doesn’t matter what job you do or what sort of house you live in, if you think you have the time to give to a child that’s the main thing. I think talking honestly to the child is important – I probably talk to them too much! But, I think they are very grounded as a result and have a realistic view of the world.”

Norma tried to retire from fostering a few years ago but the break was short lived. “I’ve talked to other carers and there is something addictive about the feeling you get when you see the child in your care doing well. I just love it and I still get excited when I take on a new placement. I’m in contact with a lot of the young people I’ve looked after over the years – to some of them I’m their Mum. It’s fantastic to see them go on and make successful lives for themselves. Given the difficulties they have faced as children you know something has gone right when you see them build relationships and have their own families.”

Find out more about specialist step-down placements.

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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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