“From being a young girl, I’ve had an interest in fostering,” explains Jo. “We work so well as a couple to raise our birth daughter, Emily, that we wanted to give that quality of life and those memorable experiences to other children who really need it.”
Lisa continues: “There are so many vulnerable children out there who need a stable, safe and supportive family environment, and we have the space in our home and heart to provide this. After speaking with our friends and family, we decided that fostering was the journey we wanted to embark upon, and we haven’t looked back since.”
With many Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) to choose from, Jo and Lisa researched and spoke to several in their area, and selected FCA thanks to its child-centred, holistic approach. “FCA was different to the others – they felt caring and focused on the children. They made it clear that the child was at the centre of what they do, and supporting their carers was also of paramount importance, which is vital to achieve a successful placement.
“This ethos has been proven with incredible support offered to us by our supervising social worker. Not only does she respond to the needs of the fostered child, she also ensures both us as carers, and our daughter Emily, are fully supported and engaged.
While longer term placements are usually planned in advance with a full history provided, emergency placements often require lots of emotional support with little background history.
“All placements are so rewarding, especially when the child smiles for the first time and starts to feel safe and enjoy play or activities, some of which they may never have done before. We took our emergency foster child swimming for her first time and we’ll never forget the joy and pride on her face when she swam.”
Of course, while there are unrivalled rewards in fostering, there are also challenges, as Jo discusses: “As with anything in life, there are difficult times, but we put our own spin on this and see these moments as development and training opportunities. We learn from the challenges and this makes us more skilled and effective as carers.”
Challenges can range from a busy schedule with child contact and meetings, to behavioural issues and saying goodbye to the foster children whom you’ve developed a strong bond.
“Despite this, our journey as foster carers has provided us with many more highs than lows, and makes us feel truly rewarded and proud of the difference we’re making to children’s lives.”
When asked what their most memorable moment has been, Lisa replied: “There are simply too many to mention, however, if I had to select one, it would be seeing our foster baby’s health improve considerably and visibly as each day passed.”
In terms of support on offer, this differs between IFAs, so it’s important to research agencies and speak to existing carers. Jo explains: “Whenever we need support from FCA, it’s there, and we’ve found our supervising social worker an unbelievable source of help. We have regular supervision and if we need additional support, she will accommodate extra visits.
“There is also a wide range of online and face-to-face training available, which we can fit in around caring for our foster children, and Emily. We’ve also benefitted from FCA’s peer support groups, where we can meet other carers and share experiences. This is great to help us reflect on the care we give, learn from others and develop new strategies and skills.”
When it comes to advice for new carers, Lisa says: “If you’re a couple, you need to work together as a team, communicate constantly and support each other every step of the way. You must be stable in your relationship and family life, and both be committed to the fostering role,”
“You also need to be open and honest with each other, and the foster agency and professionals. Choose placements that you feel you can manage and that match your family circumstances, especially if you have birth children, and ask for help if you need it.
“Talk to family and friends to ensure you have a support network. Speak with people who already foster and find out more about the role. It’s a 24/7 job and you need to embrace the role with everything you have.
“It can be truly rewarding and incredibly enjoyable, and though there will be challenges, the rewards will undoubtedly outweigh these.
“In the short time we’ve been fostering, we’ve already made many amazing memories and moments that we’ll cherish forever. As a family, we’re looking forward to creating many more.”
For more information on becoming a foster carer with FCA please call 0800 022 4330 or visit www.thefca.co.uk
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Sarah, based in the South East, who specialises in parent and child placements shares how fostering over ten years has changed her life.
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Behind Deborah and Mally’s Door
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Deborah and Mally share their story of how they opened their doors and became foster parents to a number of children and young people across the North East.