Reflecting on why she started fostering with FCA in 2005, Angie said: “I was a youth worker for around 20 years so I wanted a change of direction. When I had my own children, I wanted to do something that allowed me to spend time with them.”
Angie felt compelled to support vulnerable children for a number of reasons, including the fact that she spent time in care as a child herself. She felt that she could empathise with these children and young people, and help them to work through what can be a really challenging and daunting time in their lives. She said that she ‘wanted to give similar children a loving home’.
When asked how fostering has had an impact on her and her children, she said: “I have two birth children, Katie* who’s 29 and Sarah* who’s 20. Sarah was only three when I started fostering. They have really benefited from the experience and it has led Katie in particular to choosing the career path she is on now.
“Katie now works as a supervising social worker out in Australia, the desire to work in a role like this has really come from being a part of a fostering family.”
She added: “The social aspect of fostering has been great too. There are always a lot of get-togethers and the experience really brings the family closer. It’s had a really positive effect on my family.
“Seeing kids do well, getting good jobs, going to university and getting positive feedback is wonderful. If you give them 100% of your time, you will see the rewards. I just want to give these children the best childhood I possibly can.”
Angie revealed how dedicating time to short-break placements as opposed to long-term placements, is giving her the flexibility she has been looking for since turning 60. She said: “Over time, I have had 10 long-term placements, 14 sibling placements and 32 short-break placements.
“I have now decided to focus solely on short-breaks. I have just turned 60 so I wanted a bit of flexibility and the opportunity to go and visit my daughter in Australia. If I was to continue with long-term, I couldn’t just travel when I wanted to.”
She continued: “Long-term worked well for me when I had young children because I could bring them up together. Short-breaks give me the opportunity to carry on fostering while still giving me that flexibility to do what I want to do and look after my 86-year-old mother.
“What I really enjoy about short-break placements is that I get to see the same children quite often and give their long-term carers that breathing space. Kids like continuity and that’s what works well for all of us.”
Angie has provided some children with years of continuity, and become an extension of their usual fostering families.
Reflecting on her fostering experience over the years, Angie said: “I had a young person who has just left. Leo* was a short-break placement to start with, but he asked me if he could move in permanently, and I said yes!
“Leo has just moved to university but I have told him that I will be keeping the spare room open for him to return to whenever he wants. It’s like a safety net for him; I felt like I made a significant difference to him by giving him that security to go on.
“I still have children coming back and I still receive Mother’s Day cards. I have always been there for the children and have always tried to be a good listener.
“One of the most difficult aspects has been trying to get the balance right between my birth children and foster children. Because Sarah was so young when I started, there was a bit of jealousy at the beginning when she saw me giving some affection to other children.
“To manage it, I used to set time aside to spend with my birth children. When they started getting older it wasn’t a problem at all. It was more challenging when they were younger. “
When asked about the support she has received over the years, Angie said: “I have been a full time foster parent for 17 years, since August 2005. I get great support from my social worker at FCA, friends and family too. Because I’ve been doing this for so long now, I have lots of foster parent friends. I get a lot of support from the carer support group as well.
“FCA has been very good to me over the years, I have received a lot of support from the whole team. I wouldn’t go anywhere else.”
Angie said that short-break placements are a great way to experience fostering without the long-term commitment: “It’s a good way to dip your feet in the water and try out fostering without the long-term commitment. I would strongly recommend fostering to anyone.”
*Names have been changed to protect the children’s safety.
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