In 2006, Steve and Eileen spotted an advert on television which was centred around fostering.
Though they had no background in childcare, they had always loved having their nieces and nephews over to stay and the advert really caught their eye. Steve explains; “We had always liked the idea and thought ‘let’s give it a go’. We’re so glad we did, as it’s worked out very well for us!”
“We didn't have our own children who could have, perhaps, been disrupted through this, so we have been able to foster more challenging children and offer them a brighter future. We've always been able to give the children in our care all of our attention, which works for us.”
Over the last 15 years, Steve and Eileen have welcomed six long term placements into their home, as well as three children on respite care. Eileen’s sister has been a great support to them as she also fosters children for respite.
When reflecting back upon their first placement, Steve and Eileen said; “We didn't really choose to specialise in caring for adolescents in distress. Our first placement, after a week of being approved, came from a secure unit, so we were kind of thrown in the deep end.
“I think there was a feeling that he was ‘unfosterable’ and we thought no, nobody is unfosterable - so we took him out of the secure unit and took him in with us.”
“He’d been in foster care since he was a baby and had been institutionalised, but when he left us he said that we gave him the best three years of his life, which was lovely.”
Eileen continues; “He felt safe here. He felt safe for the first time in his life, that’s a quote that we remember well. I’ll never forget when he had been with us for three months and we accompanied him to court. The judge read his report and said “I have known you for a long time and I am so pleased to say that I haven't seen you here for quite some time. Reading the report it says that you have been fostered.”
“After asking him where his foster parents were, the judge asked us to stand and thanked us, saying kindly ‘I wish there were more people like you. I've known him for quite some time and he’s had his problems and it's lovely to see him happy and doing well.’
“We felt brilliant, embarrassed mind you, but absolutely brilliant.”
Steve added “Seeing the change and seeing them improve. Giving them a feeling of a peaceful life instead of the chaos that they come from is the most rewarding part of fostering vulnerable children.”
However, fostering does not come without its challenges, as Eileen explains, “It’s having that support network around you, like FCA, especially in a time of crisis when you don’t want things to escalate. We are very honest with the children, we don’t lie to them. We try to explain things as best we can.”
“A huge challenge for foster parents and children was the pandemic.” Steve continues; “I think it was hardest for the children, having to stay at home all day especially during the summer. We found home-schooling horrendous. Eileen was working at the trust before her retirement at Christmas, so I took on the teacher role in the family. I felt awful. They don’t do things the way we were taught to do them. I was very aware that I was teaching them the way I was taught and he’d have to relearn it at school!”
Eileen said, “Our foster parent group used to all meet up regularly and we lost that support and feel of a carer community during the pandemic, but we are excited to get back to it now that restrictions are lifted.”
Looking back over their experiences throughout the years, the couple said the skills that were most vital were adaptability and honesty; “If you need that support, be honest. It’s not easy at times but working with those children is so worthwhile.”
When asked about their experience with FCA and whether they felt they were able to receive that support from both the social care and teaching professionals involved, Steve said,
“Over the years, we’ve had great social workers and we never feel abandoned. We always feel that there is someone there to talk to. Right from the beginning, we found it very straightforward. The professionals involved have been excellent and easy to talk to while giving us great in depth support.”
“It is amazing to see what wonderful children they have grown to become.”
March 15 2022
Christie, a Derbyshire local, has been fostering for the past three years and sat down to share her experience and advice for future foster parents.
“It’s not all about making them happy and giving them nice things, it’s about being a comforting presence and being kind. Sometimes they just need to know you are there.”
April 2 2022
Single foster parent, Marlene, based in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, has worked with children with autism, shares her incredible fostering journey so far.