Emma and her partner, Andy, who have been fostering vulnerable children for two years now share their story so far.
There were a few factors that contributed to Emma and Andy’s interest in foster care. Formerly working at a bank for twenty years, working in a nursery and then a golf club, Emma was looking for a career change which was truly fulfilling after having three children and devoting her life to her family and working.
Emma explains: “Gosh, where to start! Fostering was something Andy and I had talked about for years and years before taking the leap and doing it. We'd always talked about it after seeing adverts on television or hearing of other people that had fostered, until we got to the point where we sort of thought, ‘Let’s do it!’
“Our eldest daughter then moved out of home and into with her partner, so we had this spare bedroom free. After that I walked to the ISP office, made an inquiry and now we’re here two years down the line!”
When reflecting on her previous career choices, Emma explains that she feels that fostering is much more fulfilling: “To me, this is so much more rewarding than working in the bank ever was. All my life, I've always felt that I didn't achieve my potential in something, but I didn't quite know what it was at that point. I just knew I wasn't doing what I was meant to be doing. Now, I can quite honestly say that I am doing what I was always meant to be doing - fostering!
“I actually feel so much more satisfied and content with my life. It's made a huge difference to me in every single way!”
Before fostering, Emma had experience raising her own three birth children and had worked in nurseries and church holiday clubs, but she realised she had a lot to learn about fostering: “Well, my first thing was I'd actually didn't realise that foster care was a paid role, and I know that sounds a bit crazy, but I thought they maybe just got expenses. I didn't realise they got a proper payment for this.”
“I remember speaking to the team at ISP and saying, ‘well, how does this work? How can I work and continue to do this?’ and they explained that you get paid, so that I could leave my full-time job.”
Emma explains that there was a lot to learn when she was getting started: “I didn't overthink it at first to be honest. We did the ‘skills to foster’ course, which was interesting and brought up a lot of things. You learn a lot, things like allegations, which were a big concern for me and around how that could affect my children and my relationship with my children, but if we all didn't foster because of that, there'd be no foster parents in this world. It’s all part of it!”
When their first foster child walked through the door, Emma explains that the whole family was overjoyed: “She was just seven when she came to us and she turned up on the doorstep with the happiest, smiliest, and most cheerful face I've ever seen. She was a lovely, bonnie little girl. She really was. She was just wonderful!”
Continuing: “She stayed with us for six weeks, and in those six weeks, we had moments where she was not quite so wonderful, and she was a little bit stroppy, and, you know, a 7-year-old little madam - but she was lovely and adorable and she was a good girl.”
“She ended up moving back to where she originally came from because she was placed with foster carers that could look after her and her brother. It was very sad when she moved on, but it was the right thing for her and that was all great. Not long after that the young boy who is with us now came. When he came to us, he was nine years old.”
Emma says the transition she has seen in her foster son so far is incredible: “We've seen massive changes in him. I mean, this was a child who couldn't regulate himself at all. He still has moments, but he is so much better now. He is so much happier and healthier.
“The best compliment I've ever had was when his uncle came for his birthday party, along with his cousin and his uncle pulled me aside, and cried saying to me that he is such a changed boy. He thanked me so much for everything we were doing for him. So it was very rewarding to hear this!”
Emma thinks that her birth children have learned a lot through having a foster child in the family: “I think they've seen the hardships of life and they've seen what it can be like for other children less fortunate than themselves. My children are kind-hearted, so they were always very good at sharing and being nice to other children. In fact, my daughter who is 15 years old would now like to go into some sort of social care when she's older, which I believe has come about through her experience with these children.
“They just see the young boy as their brother now. They tell people that we've got a foster brother. They don't exclude him from the family relationship or the dynamics of the family at all, we’re all one big family now.”
Emma believes it is ISP that has made all the positive difference to her journey through fostering: “My supporting social worker is amazing. I mean she is just fantastic. She is always there on the end of the phone just to talk me down and it’s just the most wonderful thing. If I'm having a moment, I just ring her up and I can just speak to her about what is going on.”
“She has given me some really good tips and ideas on how to cope and we give them a try. Sometimes they don't work, sometimes they do. It's just having someone else on your side who's saying, ‘yeah, this is perfectly normal, the way you're feeling is normal’.”
Emma says: “I can't really make up for what the children have lost and what they've grieved for. It's not actually what they've lost, it's what they feel they should have had and what they deserve. But I can try my hardest to make life better for them and make things nice for them whilst they’re in my home.
“Fostering has made me consider so many aspects of my life and of myself. I think actually I'm quite similar to that little boy. I think some of the issues that he has, I actually have discovered in myself. I believe that this child and me as a child are quite similar. I had tantrums until I was quite old and I got very angry with people and with the world and there was no particular reason for me to feel like that. So I learn a lot from him, as he learns from me.”
Emma explains that she has found the fostering process extremely rewarding: “I’m amazed and proud of my whole family. I'm impressed with all of us, actually, at how we’ve coped and managed to welcome this young boy into our family. You know, I can see the difference we're making. It's not necessarily so obvious in regards to ‘he's doing X instead of Y, but just emotionally, you know, emotionally there's a difference that we're making in this lad.”
Emma's advice for anyone considering fostering is this: “Look into it. Speak to somebody. Do the ‘skills to foster’ course. Make enquiries. Just think about it. You won’t regret it!”
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