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Who becomes a foster carer?

Amy and Craig

family

“To witness how much she has grown and see her become much more positive about her future has been so rewarding.”

We first started fostering about two and a half years ago and our placements have included a lovely girl from Libya, who will now be staying with them until she is 21.

Some people have their reservations about fostering asylum seeking children but they’re no different to our children.

They may speak a different language and be from a different culture, but nothing else is any different and we haven’t found it an issue at all.

We actually really enjoyed overcoming the language barrier. When she first came to us she was speaking no English at all and now she speaks fantastically, to the extent she can even have a laugh and a joke with us.

To witness how much she has grown and see her become much more positive about her future has been so rewarding.

What a lot of people don’t appreciate is that a lot of the children from places like Syria and Libya don’t come from nothing. They’re originally from very normal, loving families and have been quite well off but all of that has been taken away.

It was suddenly too dangerous for them to go out and they had to move from house to house because it wasn’t safe where they were.

Having known happiness and had a future, they have had that ripped away from them and are having to start again in a completely different country.

Fostering is a lifestyle. It is hard but as much as there can be some difficult days and plenty of sleepless nights, it is so rewarding and all worth it.

For me it’s the best of both worlds because I can be at home with the children and still doing something that stimulates and challenges me. It gives me flexibility and just ticks all of the boxes.

Alison and Debbie

Foster carers Alison and Debbie sitting together in their garden

"Our first foster placement has turned into a long-term arrangement ... the matching process works well!"

We believe that by being able to offer a stable, supportive and loving home to a young person, we can hopefully make a small difference in their life.

The assessment process was very thorough but was handled sensitively. It makes you think about your life, relationships and past experiences, both good and bad. It took about six months until we went to panel. We were elated to be approved.

When our first foster child arrived we were quite nervous and hoped that we would all get on. We wanted him to feel welcome.

When on a trip to a wildlife park, we saw pure enjoyment and laughter as he went on the helter skelter repeatedly. We understood then that it is often the small things that give the most joy.

Our first foster placement has turned into a long-term arrangement and he will probably be with us until he is at least 18. It shows that the matching process works well!

Alison

"Therapeutic fostering is everything that fostering gives, plus a bit more"

Alison foster carerI love working with children and every one of them has a story. I always wonder how they’ve come to be at my doorstep. I wonder about their background, where they’ve come from, what traumas they’ve suffered, what they’ve witnessed and what have they lacked in their life.  Who do they miss, who do they want to be, where do they want to be, what do they need, can I help them, how do I help them?

My list of questions could go on. Child behaviour has always been of deep interest to me. I’ve wanted to understand why certain behaviours occur, what the triggers are, and how I can help. I look at a child and feel they need support to understand and deal with their feelings and emotions.

No foster carer is any more special than another, but I’ve always wanted to go that bit further in my fostering career, and therapeutic fostering has given me that. Through Essex County Council’s therapeutic fostering scheme I have been given the skills, knowledge and support to provide a bespoke package of care to each individual child that I will care for.

I get weekly access to mental health coordinators, a clinical psychologist, supervising social workers, a training officer, and other therapeutic foster carers. I can ask for guidance on a specific behaviour, and get professional advice, which is ongoing. I’m given the skills to work with the child in a therapeutic environment, to help them achieve the best possible outcome for their future.

Before my recent placement, the therapeutic fostering scheme allowed me to have proper introductions. I visited and worked with the child for many weeks to get to know the child, and for them to get to know all about me and my family. We spent time together playing, baking, fishing, visiting school, enjoying meal times together, and planning sleepovers, as well as the eventual move into placement. The child was the focus of the therapeutic team, which resulted in a well-planned and well managed move. The careful planning and management has certainly benefited the child and enabled them to settle quickly and feel comfortable in familiar surroundings.

I’m humbled to meet many wonderful young people that have suffered more in their lives than most, and yet still want to trust in adults to give them a chance and a loving home. Therapeutic fostering is everything that fostering gives, plus a bit more.

Nicola

"I have been fostering teenagers for nearly two years... they've all settled quickly and I have enjoyed every minute of it."

Foster carer Nicola seated, with small dog on lap

The assessment process was interesting and taught me a lot about myself - I had to think about my own childhood as well as the way I had brought up my children. The panel were friendly and I actually enjoyed telling them about my own children and what I felt I had to offer as a foster carer.

I have been fostering teenagers for nearly two years - sometimes for a short stay, others for over a year. They've all settled quickly and I have enjoyed every minute of it. The support and training has helped with every challenge.

I love involving the children in things I’m interested in and finding out what interests them. For example, I like running and although he was unable to run himself, a young lad I was fostering with cerebral palsy came to events to support me. I found out about a record-attempt ‘Penguin Waddle’ in London with people dressed in penguin suits. We entered and had an amazing evening, which he still talks about.

Joyce and Eddie

Foster carers Joyce and Eddie sitting on their sofa

"Do it! It's rewarding and no day is ever the same."

I was in foster care myself when I was younger.

I have been fostering with Essex County Council since since 2001. It’s something I’d always wanted to do. 

I nearly always care for teenagers, which I enjoy. At first, it felt weird. I wasn’t sure what they wanted to do, what I was supposed to do or what to talk about. But once you’ve got to know them and what they're interested in, it's fine.

One of the best things about fostering was caring for a teenager who has kept in touch as an adult. The challenges for me are when the children are not talking, or talking too much!

I value the interesting courses Essex County Council provides, especially the ones that help you understand and manage behaviours.

If you're thinking about fostering, do it! It's rewarding and no day is ever the same. You don’t need a massive house, you just need time, love and attention to give. More people should do it!

Gary and Debbie

Foster carers Gary and Debbie on holiday in Egypt

"It's been a real experience... keeps us young too."

After supporting our youngest daughter through her A-levels, and our eldest daughter living and working abroad, we felt we still had a lot to offer to other children.

We both like children, and felt we could provide them care and support. Debbie is a nursery manager and Gary a stay-at-home Dad, so we have the time and commitment to foster a child.

It started with a simple phone call to Essex County Council fostering team. The process took about 6 months.

Within a month we had a 12-year-old boy living with us. He's been with us for over a year now, and it's been a real experience. We enjoy having a boy. We've helped him find a local football team to play for and support him each week at his games, rain or shine! Taking him on holidays - we have just returned from Egypt - was not only fun, but keeps us young too.

Tony and Nicki

Foster carers Tony and Nicki with teenage siblings in school uniform

"We encourage anyone to join this fulfilling world."

We wanted to help as many children in need as possible.

Our assessment took around six months. On the day of our panel we were nervous but our social worker put us at ease. We were approved and were overjoyed, as this had been our dream for a long time.

We're specialising in children with disabilities. They can be medically or behaviourally demanding, which is challenging at times but extremely rewarding.

Our first foster child has a huge place in our heart. She had extremely complex medical needs. She was five months old when she came to us and we watched her grow and reach her goals. Eventually she was adopted, which was wonderful for her. We still get updates on her progress. We're proud that we helped steer her to a brighter future.

We get lots of support and ongoing training from Essex County Council, which is key - personal development and knowledge helps with different situations we might face.

We have a fantastic supervising social worker who is always at the end of the phone if we need her, and an equally brilliant out-of-hours team if we need advice. We absolutely love our role as foster carers and encourage anyone to join this fulfilling world.

Jean and Dean

"There are regular support groups where we've made many friends."

Foster carers Jean and Dean taking a selfie at a racecourse

One night after our own child went to university, we were chatting about having spare time on our hands and missing all of the fun things you get to do with children. I Googled fostering and made an enquiry. The next morning the phone rang. We had a friendly chat, then a visit.

It was a simple and straightforward process. About six months later we went to the fostering panel. We were nervous but so pleased when they approved us. A few weeks later we had a little brother and sister aged 2 and 3 for two weeks while their carers were on holiday. The two weeks went fast and we were sad to see them leave.

Soon after, two sisters came to stay with us initially for one week. Circumstances changed and they will now be with us until adulthood.

Fostering has been quite challenging at times but also very rewarding. There are continuous training opportunities to broaden your knowledge, and regular support groups where we've made many friends.

Jeff and Catherine Graham

"This has been hugely rewarding and we now have the time and experience to care for a young person full-time."

We launched the Therapeutic Fostering Scheme in autumn 2015, and we’re delighted to have approved our first therapeutic carers.

Jeff and Catherine Graham“We have worked in education for over 30 years and have three grown-up children. For the last two years we've undertaken respite foster caring for young people between the ages of eight and seventeen, some of whom we have cared for regularly. This has been hugely rewarding and we now have the time and experience to care for a young person full-time.

“The Therapeutic Fostering scheme particularly appealed to us as it provides an opportunity to work with a team of professionals to help meet the personal, social and emotional needs of a young person. As a Therapeutic Foster carer, you are viewed as a part of a team of people working to help a young person to be the best they can be. You views, ideas and suggestions are actively sought. 

"Regular high-quality bespoke training and weekly support groups are a key feature of the programme, which was a particular attraction to us, as well as priority access to a team of mental health workers, social workers and other relevant professionals, and the support of a Clinical Psychologist."

Regular and personalised support for you as a therapeutic foster carer is built in to the programme to help you cope with the challenges as well as celebrate the successes."

Find out more about therapeutic fostering

Amy and Craig

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