Sarah, based in the South East, who specialises in parent and child placements shares how fostering over ten years has changed her life.
Ten years ago, as her own children blossomed into teenagers, Sarah decided she wanted to return back to work. As a natural home maker and being great with children, fostering seemed a natural step for Sarah to begin her new career.
Sarah explains; “Lots of discussions took place and my close friends thought, as a family we would be perfect for fostering. My children were so excited, they have loved growing up by the sea in our home and wanted other children and families to experience the same joy. I began my research on becoming a foster parent and finally came across an advert in our local newspaper for FCA, which really caught my attention. I already knew that I wanted to go with an agency, and I was excited by the prospects - needless to say, I haven’t looked back since!”
Sarah specialises in parent and child placements, sometimes referred to as parent and child fostering which is a specialist type of fostering where a parent and their baby/child, come to stay with Sarah at a time when they need extra support.
Talking about the decision to specialise in parent and child placements, Sarah commented: “As my sister had six children, including twin boys, I spent a lot of time helping her out and taking care of them, which led me to thinking more seriously about parent and child fostering specifically.”
Sarah’s role as a foster parent is to help develop the parent(s) full potential to achieve a level of parenting to enable them to move on with their children. This involves identifying support needs through assessment and then effectively implementing strategies that meet these learning needs.
Over ten years, Sarah has fostered five children and teenagers and looked after 14 parent and child placements, including both mother and father. Sarah explains; “I have had many different families during my fostering journey. Our first mother and baby had cerebral palsy, which meant she only had the use of one arm, which was really challenging, but we supported them throughout their journey. We have also supported mother and fathers as young as 16 and 17 years old. One couple had new born twins.
“They had come from another family and the local authorities had the view to go with adoption, but they did so well with our family that they left here confidently as their own family parenting their twins.”
However, being a foster parent does come with its challenges. As Sarah reveals; “There is no doubt that the job of being a foster parent is 24/7, which I hadn’t fully prepared myself for at the beginning of my journey.
“You may feel as though you are trying your absolute best with the young people and see a huge difference to when they first arrive, but sadly, some may return to their old ways, which can be difficult to watch.
“Saying ‘goodbye’ is also one of the hardest parts for me. Watching the young people with their babies move on to start their next chapter can be really hard, but we are so lucky in the way that most of our families keep in touch with us. There has been ups and downs, but I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Taking the step towards fostering vulnerable children and families is a life-changing decision, but one that proves to be rewarding. Sarah believes her success in fostering is due to the amount of support she receives from FCA, as she explains; “My social worker is always checking in, especially when they know I may be having a hard time. They have always been extremely supportive and constantly reassure me that I’m doing a fantastic job.
“Support groups have also been fantastic. It really helps being able to keep in touch with other foster parents and sharing our worries. We also have a WhatsApp group with our foster parents and social workers, where we can all share advice and support one another.”
The journey so far has already given the family many rewarding memories, Sarah added: “There have been so many amazing memories during my journey. One moment that has always stuck with me is during a time where I was supporting a transition to adoption. The family came back to me eight months later and asked me to be the child’s god mother, and ever since we have had an amazing relationship as one big family.
“I’ve even been on family holidays with them to help with their young child.”
Sarah’s best advice to new foster parents would be to remain strong and never be afraid to ask for help and support. “This is a tough job to do alone - rely on your support workers when you need to. You will learn as you go along, so I would also say do as many training courses as possible as they helped me so much in my early days, especially to prepare me for this new and exciting journey!
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