Meet foster parent Julie from FCA Thames Valley
Meet foster parent Julie who embarked on her journey in the UK at the age of 18 with the sole purpose of learning English. Soon after settling in the UK she crossed paths with her husband, and their love story began. As she reflects upon their fostering experience, Julie fondly recalls the pivotal moment when she shared her heartfelt desire to adopt with her husband, who was initially unfamiliar with the concept. Inspired by a friend in France who had fostered and eventually adopted, the idea of fostering had also always been in Julie’s mind. It was around three years into their relationship that they discussed the subject of fostering, igniting a conversation that would shape their future.
“I looked at FCA as at that time their office was not too far from our house. We had an informal chat and decided this is the agency for us and thought let’s try it. In 2015 when I was 24 years old we were approved and we've been very happy since”.
“Initially we wanted to foster children under the age of five because we didn't have our own children at the time, so we thought and that age would work well. Our first child was an emergency placement, a nine year old girl who was due to stay with us for a week. We thought we would say yes but were not sure this age group would work for us long term. However, we fell in love with her and she fell in love with us, it was the perfect fit. She has got birth parents so we didn’t think she was adoptable but just over two years ago, she said I want to be adopted”.
“The adoption process was a long battle but we knew she needed to ‘belong’. Although we already knew it, she now knows that we are her family. It took a couple of years and finally just before she turned 16 she was officially adopted and took our surname. It was an amazing blessing. Later this year she will be 18 years old. We have started talking about universities for next year but I'm not I’m ready for her to go because she's still my baby - although she doesn't like me saying that. She is my pride and joy and she is just amazing. She is flourishing and is a wonderful big sister to our six year old and three year old birth children”.
Julie and her family then moved to more specialised parent and child fostering.
“I had considered parent and child fostering some years ago and took part in the training but at that point I didn’t feel like I had gained enough experience to be able to offer a parent the right support. But it was just before we had our youngest child there was something in my heart that made me want to do parent and child fostering next. I called a really good friend who does parent and child fostering and she gave me some really good advice and the encouragement I needed. So together with my husband and eldest daughter we discussed it and as a family made the decision to give it a go. We are a team and I could not have done it on my own or without the commitment from them”.
“I think it's very different to fostering children. You can do as much training as you can but you never really feel fully prepared - You just have to take a leap of faith. I had weeks where I spent. at least four hours recording because you observe all day long. It’s so important to gather as much information as possible to give social workers a true representation of the placement. My recording was apparently very thorough, so I was quite happy.”
“But it really worked for us. It was an incredible experience over those five months. There were of course, difficult times but it was amazing and a great challenge and experience. We are looking for to do it again”.
“When Mum came to us with her newborn baby she had a lot of mental health issues and low self esteem - which we were very considerate of. At first she didn't want to interact with us and it took two months for her to make the change and properly warm to us”.
“As a family we didn’t give up, we worked really hard and I guess without realising I did a lot of therapeutic parenting - offering support, advice and listening. We talked a lot about the trauma and change. I let her be a mum and didn't take over but would give advice and explain how and what I was doing and showed her compassion, care and she wanted to learn. I taught her to cook and encouraged her to believe in herself, instilling confidence and at the end she could cook really well”.
“Professionals were amazed by the change in her life. We had a really good relationship and we supported her transition in to independent living. We really wanted to see her to succeed and even though we are no longer in touch we wanted to continue the healthy support in place”.
“Obviously adopting our daughter has been a huge highlight for us. I'm heavily invested in helping change someone's life and that is incredible and to be an advocate for the children and to get the right outcome for them is so important”.
“In terms of challenges I think I guess the hardest is that it’s 24 hours. You have time but sometimes you need to take a step back and then analyse the situation and my social worker was fantastic and she was there when I needed her. I think for me, what's important is a good social worker and mine is fantastic, she gets me and can relate to my family dynamic, I can call her whenever needed. I also have a wonderful group of foster parents and have made great friendships, we meet up often, talk about what is happening and offer each other advice or just listen and really we are each other’s support network”.
“I don’t think fostering is for everyone but if you've thought about it and you really want it, do it. Be open minded and try not to have preconceived ideas because we will never have had our daughter if we’d of stuck to our initial matching request. Talk to your social worker to see what will work with your family or particular situation. Fostering is an incredible journey, so follow your heart”.
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