Sue, based in Whitstable, Kent, has been a foster parent for over 15 years, during which she’s provided a compassionate, safe home for vulnerable children to find stability. It’s a journey that’s not been easy but has been filled with countless rewarding moments.
Sue started fostering in 2005 and in 2010, she decided to transfer to a local therapeutic fostering agency, ISP. Sue explains: “We had made it through the form F vetting process with our sanity still intact – only just!
“We had completed lots and lots of training and taken all of the advice we could, eager to make sure we had every base covered. We had listened to countless stories from experienced carers, some of which made your heart melt, others left us considering running for the hills. Finally, we felt that we were ready, or so we thought.”
As a mother of two young children, Sue still had plenty of concerns: “When we first began, we had so many questions, ranging from ‘How will we react when our buttons get pushed’ and ‘Are we going to be able to cope’, to quite simply, ‘Will we be a good foster family?’
“However, our biggest concern was our children, who had plenty of their own worries. They were concerned whether I’d still be able to pick them up from school, whether I’d still have time for them and had worries about the foster children, such as will they like them, and will they take their stuff.
“Of course, many of these questions are simply unanswerable, and many of these worries continue to come up when we start a new placement, even 15 years into it. However, as our confidence has grown and we’ve developed our experiences, they’ve been much easier to manage.”
Their very first foster child presented them with a steep learning curve, teaching them that things don’t always go to plan.
“So finally, the big day arrived. All the planning, training and research had led us to this moment. We were as ready as we would ever be (and as scared as we had ever been). We had agreed on a plan for the day: Settle in, meet the family, quiet time etc. Little did we know that wasn’t meant to be!
“Our first ever foster child arrived. A lot later than planned. Her goodbyes at her previous home had been tough, and they didn’t go to plan. We did our very best to help her settle, tried to say the right things and offer lots of comfort and reassurance.
“But she was scared, unhappy and confused. She was not used to, or not ready to share her problems with us right away, so took herself off to her room for the rest of the day.”
It was a huge knock to their confidence, as Sue explains: “We felt helpless and confused. We had expected the full on caring and parenting to start straight away. We were ready for an outpouring of love and support, but that didn’t come until later. Each child is different, so it’s important to find what works for them.
“On that very first day what the child needed was space, time and patience. Managing our own feelings about what we thought it would be like and what it was really like, turned out to be the hardest thing that day. We had so much love to give to our new family member, but on that first day, she wasn’t ready to accept it. We had to wait, take things at her pace.”
Once they’d given the child time to process, Sue was able to start making their first connections. “We started to talk, to connect, to understand each other. There were bumps along the way. It wasn’t an easy journey, and we had to learn to listen to our child to understand what was going on for her. But we got there eventually and had lots of fun along the way.”
Reflecting on her childhood, Liv, Sue’s daughter, has created many happy memories. “For my sister and me, sharing our home with foster children has been really influential. It has really impacted our lifestyle and certainly dictated the paths we’ve favoured as we’ve grown up.
“My parents have been extremely kind and considerate throughout the whole process. They treat us all equally, which has really helped the foster children to feel part of our family.
We’ve had eight children live with us in the last 15 years, but that hasn’t once impacted on my family life or how I’m treated as a birth child. Our family is really open with each other, and I think that has developed over the years, due to fostering.”
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