Accomplished marathon runner Alison Molton from Southport, is never one to shy away from a challenge. Having completed several marathons for charity, including the 2017 London Marathon, her biggest challenge is not beating her personal best, but being able to provide and safe and nurturing home to children and young people in care as one Foster Care Associates (FCA) incredible foster carers.
She said: “My husband Tim was brought up in a hotel and we’d always been used to ‘taking in guests’ but when the first of our two girls were born we needed to concentrate on them. We did, however, always miss the buzz of meeting new people and having them stay in our home, so when the girls had grown up a bit we started taking in foreign students during the holidays.
“We love being surrounded by young people in a busy home so a foster carer friend suggested that we should consider fostering ourselves. Foster Care Associates (FCA) was recommended to us and further research warned us away from local authorities as concerns were often raised about the quality of training and support. We spoke to FCA and the rest, as they say, is history!
“Of course we didn’t go into this huge life-changing decision without discussing it with our family and close friends first. Everyone was really supportive, particularly my husband’s parents who despite being in their 80’s now play an active support role.
“To be honest our children’s views have always been dependent on the placement at the time; some they have got on with very well, others they’ve tolerated, but it has been a great learning experience for them and showed them life from another perspective.
“Our eldest daughter has even applied to study International Disaster Management at Manchester University from September – caring at an International level – so some of it must be rubbing off!
Our fostering journey
“Our fostering journey began with respite caring, which was a great introduction to foster care as we experienced looking after a variety of placements over six months, children and young people with different abilities, ages, genders and faiths. It gave us a great grounding and from there, we found that we worked best with teenage girls so we progressed into long term placements with that particular focus.
“We’ve looked after a couple of girls who left us once they reached 16 and currently have a long-term placement who has been with us just over two years. Last year we took the parent and child (P&C) training which has been really informative. We’re now welcoming our fourth P&C placement which tend to last around 12 to 20 weeks.
“Tim still works full time managing a regeneration partnership in Knowsley, Merseyside, but I’ve been a fulltime mum for more than two decades now having previously been a branch manager for a building society. When finding out that Tim and I are foster carers most people are amazed and think we are fantastic to do it. A lot of people get it confused with adoption so you need to explain the difference sometimes.
“We try and encourage people to make the move to join us but there are still various barriers in terms of perception to get through. A few are considering it ‘when the children are older’.
“We’re under no illusion that being a foster carer doesn’t have its challenges. What is it the poem said; ‘when she was good she was very good indeed, but when she was bad she was horrid’. Ninety percent of the time the girls we have looked after have been great, but it can be a challenge when they demonstrate unreasonable behaviour, particularly the effect it can have on the household.
“However, the bad times need to be put in perspective with the good, and the outcome that is usually achieved in the end is a positive placement. They don’t all get five GCSE’s but when someone tells you that your foster child would have been dead if she hadn’t come to us because of the trouble she was getting into, it shows you the real value of what you do.
“Like all carers we try to keep our training up to date via FCA’s comprehensive programme with options to specialise in areas such as parent and child which we have done. The main focus of support is our Supervising Social Worker who is usually on hand to offer advice and guidance when needed. Obviously, we have the FCA out of hour’s number in emergency, which we’ve had to use in the past but not for a while now thankfully.
“The agency is there to support all the family and everyone looks forward to the trips they put on! Both placements and our own children have enjoyed outings to theme parks, swimming pools, trampoline centres and even Cadbury World this summer. Besides the fun element it’s also a great way for both your birth children and foster placements to bond and show there is fun in fostering for all of them.
“I’d sum up our fostering journey so far as hard work but extremely rewarding and an all-round positive experience. We’ve all learned a lot as a family and hopefully helped a number of young people and some struggling parents in the process.
“One of our proudest moments was watching our current foster daughter receive the runners-up prize for achievement out of all the looked after children in the Borough, and all in her first year with us.
“If you’re considering becoming a foster carer try to talk to existing carers, get a clear picture of what it might entail and then assess what commitment you can give to it.
“People wrongly assume that you need to sign up to take a child/ young person for several years but the reality is that you have a say in the length of stay, be it a few days of respite to longer term. Try to get as much information as you can about a potential placement but don’t be surprised if there isn’t much. Most of all trust your instincts and give your child or young person all the opportunities and chances to help create a better life for themselves.”
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