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“Give it a go. If you’ve got a lot of love and patience, you'll reap the rewards”.

Meet foster parents Karen and Wayne who have been fostering with FCA South Western since 2020. Here's their story...

April 26 2024 - 5 min read

Meet foster parents Karen and Wayne, who have been fostering with FCA South Western since 2020.  They have two grown up children who both live independently. With successful professions, Karen, 20 years of experience working as a senior manager for a large retail company and Wayne, with over 40 years in a global role for an international company, Karen decided it was the right time to take a 12 month career break.  She would use this period to travel and meet Wayne whilst he continued to work.  However, their plans were interrupted by the COVID pandemic.

Instead of returning to work, Karen expressed her desire to give back through volunteering. Unsure of what that would entail, she found inspiration through a social media advert on Instagram. Here is their story…

Karen stated “I said to Wayne what about fostering? I think we would be really good at it and it's about giving back and to my surprise, he said Yep, why not?  I filled out the enquiry form and was contacted within the week and the process began.  We did all the necessary training over lockdown and then went to panel and we were approved in July 2020.  Right from the start our daughter has been 100% supportive.  Our son was a little apprehensive and did have a few concerns but is now completely on board and involved.  Both of our children are helping with care and looking after our current foster child when we take a planned holiday later this year”.

Wayne continued to work full time in his international role and in 2022 had the opportunity to take early retirement and also become a full time foster parent alongside Karen.  Despite working long hours and travelling Wayne said, “Fostering is different, I've never worked so hard”.

So far, they have welcomed five foster children into their home, most of whom needed an emergency home. Karen said “We have fostered a mixture of girls and boys all of different ages.  We learned a lot from our first foster child, we built a great relationship during his time with us and he's still keeps in contact.  Recently, we met for lunch and he had a beautiful bunch of flowers for me”.

“We also fostered a Syrian refugee arrive who arrived on Boxing Day night, we had to very quickly learn all about her culture, sourcing halal food, ensuring her hair was covered.  I’d set the alarm on my watch as reminder for her as she prayed four to six times a day.  We wanted to her to be happy and comfortable”.

“And here we are, four years down the line and on our fifth foster child, who has been with us coming up for two years now she's just had her fourth birthday.  She's a lovely little girl who's come on leaps and bounds since living with us”.

Talking about the challenges Karen and Wayne said “The challenges we've faced have been quite diverse. We’ve both transitioned from managerial roles in large companies with grown-up children, back to caring for a very young child which at times was demanding. Some of the behaviours we encountered were also difficult for example language barriers but we handled them in the best way we knew and are proud of our approach”.

“Providing therapeutic and nurturing parenting strategies are crucial for these children, as they often lack consistent care and structure. Establishing routines and boundaries are essential for their sense of safety and predictability. We learned to let them express themselves freely in moments of intensity, reassuring them that we're here for them whenever they're ready to talk”.

Discussing the support offered, Karen and Wayne said “We think we have chosen one of the best agencies for support because FCA understand what foster parents need. With FCA, I also have my own support network too. We attended a support group this week which is an opportunity to speak to other foster parents and share advice. Our Registered Manager always aims for excellence and makes time for us, as does our social worker who is consistently available”.  Karen explained Wayne has taken on the role of a carer representative for the South Western region too.

Karen and Wayne also said that “When dealing with foster children, it's important to remember that they all have unique and sometimes complex needs that may not be immediately apparent. One piece of advice we received early on in our fostering journey was to remember that you will be dealing with a lot of professionals on behalf of the child and we must advocate for their needs”.

Summing up their fostering experience Karen and Wayne said “Every day is different and it is the hardest job we’ve ever done.  You will have a rocky stage with every single child. But we have some absolutely wonderful moments as well, like going out all together to Nando's for the first time where our foster child really enjoyed the whole experience managing to sit and eat”.

“Looking back on these moments you do forget the difficulties like sleepless nights, and it reminds us why we do what we do. But it's about sticking together through the downs and ups and knowing that support is available, you can pick up the phone and there is there is a light at the end of the tunnel”.

For Karen one of her best fostering moments has been maintaining that relationship with their first foster child, seeing him smile and giving her a great big hug.  Karen said “I feel very proud of our current foster child as she has formed secure attachments.  She now is engaging, feels safe, protected and we have routine and boundaries in place”.

On welcoming children to their home Karen explained “We hadn't initially planned to be so flexible but in reality we've learned to be adaptable. Sometimes we only get a few hours' notice but we make it work. Our fostering bedroom is always ready with a bed and fresh clean sheets and I always have toys on hand.  When our first foster child arrived, we took him out for fish and chips and a nice walk to help distract him from everything that was happening.  In most cases the children come to us during challenging times, they're transitioning from being removed from their home and it's a difficult period for them”.

“Our advice to anyone thinking of fostering is give it a go. You'll encounter challenges and sticky situations, but if you’ve got a lot of love and patience, you'll reap rewards. Approach fostering with open eyes as you'll often encounter new experiences.  When you're having those tough times, focus on the positive aspects.  As long as you have the child's best interests at heart you're on the right track. If you treat each child as you would your own with care and consideration you're likely doing the right thing. Always approach aspects such as discipline and setting boundaries in a therapeutic, caring and loving way and you'll navigate through”.

What advice would you give to any new foster parents who have just newly been approved?

“Don't hesitate to voice your concerns when something doesn't seem right.  Attend the support groups provided by FCA and speak to other foster parents. Establish connections and build a network within the FCA fostering community”.

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