Foster parents Cassie and her soon to be wife, Susy, have been fostering for almost four years and share their fostering experience during the pandemic.
The pandemic has been difficult on every one of us, for the couple they said: “It has had its ups and downs. Our oldest, who is now 14, is now in their teenage stage plus a pandemic, it’s had its challenges. Overall, we were really lucky as we got to spend a lot of quality time together.”
Susy: “One of our children refused to work from home as he has Autism so he just couldn’t cope with the crossover from school and home. We were really lucky in that sense as their schools allowed them both back. They both really like and rely on a structured routine so that was a huge help.”
In terms of support, the couple shared that family, friends and ISP have been great during their time as foster parents. Having been with ISP since 2017, Susy said: “I think we are really lucky as not all foster parents have the same positive foster care experience. We love the agency, and we get on so well. ISP have always given us respite when we need it and we get on well with our social workers. We couldn’t do it without their support.”
Cassie said: “My sister is having another baby in September, and they are both really excited to have a new cousin. They call both of our parents their ‘nan’ or ‘nanny’ which is really lovely to see.”
One of the most challenging parts of fostering for the couple is watching the children in their care realise their past. Susy shared: “I feel one of the hardest things is trying to help them learn about their past. With our two, everything was so alien to them even Christmas Day. Those new memories for us are exciting but to them, it is so new and different to what they know.”
On the flip side, the couple said one of the most rewarding parts of fostering so far has been seeing them reach positive and incremental milestones. For Susy, she said: “Seeing them reach milestones, big or small. For example, getting them in a situation like a restaurant, which they would usually struggle in, yet it has gone well. That is always rewarding to see.”
Being placed with the couple in 2018, Cassie and Susy shared that the siblings will be staying with them long term. Cassie added: “We are getting married this Summer and just having the boys there, walking down the aisle with us, I think that is going to mean so much to them as much as it does to us. They are such a huge part of our family, and this is a lovely milestone and way to truly show this to them.”
With one of their children having Autism, the couple shared some tips they have picked up along the way. Despite both having had experience in working with autistic children before, the couple shared that they are still always learning.
Susy said: “Read up what you can and talk to other people. Talking is so important but remember what works for you might not work for them.
“We have recently bought a weighted blanket and chew toys as our youngest chews things. You learn to not leave things around like shampoo bottles, but you do just adjust your way of life. You must identify their senses and then enable space in the house for them.”
Cassie added: “Some things will get broken and you need to realise that. It is not them being difficult, you must remember they view the world so differently. Being in a routine also really helps. Through our experience, we have hardly ever changed a routine as it just never works.”
For the couple, they shared that they have not faced much stigma around fostering as a same-sex couple. Cassie said: “The only thing is when the boys first came to us, our youngest was only seven at the time and he thought me and Susy were sisters. It was a little bit difficult to begin with as it took a while to teach a seven-year-old with autism about same-sex couples.”
Susy added: “They came from a background where it seemed like their parents had quite homophobic views so that was a big learning curve for us. Our youngest has relayed some of that language but he doesn’t know what it means, he just used it to get a reaction.”
Cassie said: “We did a welcome pack before they came to us. We had a picture of us and a bio that included information about our home and our families. This really allowed that process to start. We are very open so when our eldest has asked us questions about our coming out journeys, we tell him the truth which has helped him understand more about us.”
For those in the LGBTQ+ community looking to become foster parents, Susy said: “If you want to do it, just do it. You must do it for you and what is best for your family, so I think go for it.”
Cassie shared: “We haven’t been treated any differently throughout the whole process, so it has never felt like it has been an obstacle to overcome. ISP were great especially with their ‘Skills to Foster’ training so I think just go for it!”
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