Dawn Hutchinson, from the North East of England, has been fostering with Foster Care Associates for over 10 years. With three sons, one of whom has moved out and two in their teens leading busy social lives, Dawn felt the time was right to find a new vocation.
Following a six-month career break, Dawn took up a role in a call centre that simply didn’t offer the level of job satisfaction she craved. After a conversation with a close friend who was fostering with FCA at the time, Dawn began to consider the idea of becoming a foster carer herself, particularly after seeing first-hand the activities on offer and the support available.
After discussing the prospect of fostering with her family, Dawn’s children expressed a number of reservations, largely due to her diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which causes bouts of pain all over the body. Despite these concerns, Dawn was adamant that her condition wouldn’t prevent her from offering a loving, stable home to a child in need. Dawn’s friends and family agreed, believing that fostering would be a great experience.
Over the last decade, Dawn has fostered dozens of children, from the ages of three to 18, on a variety of long and short-term placements. Currently, she fosters two teenagers on long-term arrangements and both are flourishing. One of them is performing fantastically at school, attends sea cadets twice a week, where she has built up great friendships and recently got her Duke of Edinburgh award.
The second young person has just started high school. As well as being in top sets for his school subjects, he has joined both the school and a local football team. Although still adjusting to a large school with new lessons, his behaviour has dramatically improved. There is still lots of discussion on how to respond to situations more positively, but this is a huge achievement. Dawn is so proud of both young people.
When discussing FCA, Dawn said: “My first port of call for help, support or advice is usually my supervising social worker at FCA. She offers a wealth of experience and advice, often perceiving situations differently and helping me to expand my understanding. She can provide more information or support, if needed.
“At FCA, managers and office staff are very proactive, always returning calls and finding additional information for you. The events provided are also a great offering, particularly for the young people who are able to meet others in similar situations, which provides great comfort.”
Dawn describes her fostering experience as rewarding and informative, stating that she has learnt so much from the young people she has welcomed into her home.
She said: “There have been so many defining moments – I always say that watching a child get to the sunny side of the street and stay there is the best feeling in the world. We’ve had children from all walks of life stay with us, and every one of them has been a learning curve for the whole family. From children with ADHD and Autism, to caring for children of different ethnicities and cultures, each young person has taught me something special.”
Fostering is an extremely rewarding role; however, it comes with its challenges. For Dawn, the most difficult aspect of fostering has been convincing young people to believe in themselves. Adjusting her home to safe care became a way of life for Dawn, who believes that the only way to help foster children is to support them through the difficult adjustment process. An emphasis on widening their horizons and teaching them that their past doesn’t need to define their future has also been essential.
When discussing her overall fostering experience, Dawn said: “It’s been phenomenal. I’ve learnt so much about the young people and the world around me, and I believe it has made me a better person. My family and I have learnt so much over the years and it has enriched our lives. Raising children is not easy, but it truly is a joy. Watching these young people flourish into happy, loving adults is exactly why I continue to foster.”
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