My Journey Into Fostering
My journey into fostering;
Roll back the year to the late 1950s, I was a little girl living in Canada. We lived in a town called Alberta and that’s the first time that I was abused by a man I called “uncle”. I was just a little girl, a little girl too frightened to say anything to get this to stop. Fast forward through my childhood and travel to England in the early 70s, that little girl had become an adolescent and she was rebelling against authority, colour and creed, running from school...creating havoc wherever she went.
At age 24, I became a mum and wow that hit me hard, but in the best possible way. I had this amazing little bundle who was so totally dependent on me. I felt that I had achieved my goal in life. I settled down and blossomed with motherhood. I greeted the 80’s with two, soon to be three children and by the end of the decade i had an amazing brood of 6! I felt fulfilled and totally absorbed with my children and their development. They made my heart sing, my wonder, awe and delight in my children was unending. As the 90s came roaring in, just when I thought life was perfect, things came crashing down.. Remember that little girl in the 50s…well she was about to pay me a visit.
My first son - a beautiful blonde, blue eyed baby - was aged 15 months. He was different to my other children, my gut feeling told me there was something wrong with my boy - constantly spinning things, lining toys up. I threw myself into finding what was wrong, travelling the country for answers. Then one day, the news i had been both expecting and dreading; my boy was autistic. I had worn myself out emotionally and physically, it felt like a bereavement. As I realised that my son would be vulnerable for all his life, that he would never work, that he would never marry... I sunk into a depression. And it was then, when I was at my lowest, that that little girl came from Canada to visit.
It’s a funny thing mental health, a taboo, so misunderstood. Things have improved but 25 years ago the attitude was very much ssh - don't talk about it, don’t acknowledge it. Yet it was acknowledging that innocent, traumatised little girl that eventually healed me. I got through the most painful part of my life by finally letting her know that it was ok, that she was listened to, believed, loved, valued, i found peace.
Fast forward to 2000; all was well, my family had grown up. I was content and happy, yet I felt that something was pulling me towards working with children who had had difficult times in their early years. I realised that there were so many children who would have walked the same path that I did. My experiences helped me to understand them. I could help them to feel worthy, valued and loved again. So my family and I started our new journey into fostering.
Fostering is amazing! As Foster Parents, we don’t always know all of the answers, but with good training and the right support, we can provide the safe, stable environment that all children need to thrive. We can make sure that they are listened to, not misunderstood, we can stand by their side, give them strength and help them to understand their emotions and behaviours. We can help them to realise that none of it is their fault.
To be a good Foster Parent you need to bring yourself - bring all that you’ve ever been and all that you are - children will spot a pretence a mile off. Then add great services; a supporting organisation that will help you grow your skills, a staff team who you know will always be available and fellow Foster Parents who are more like family. Become best friends with your diary - you’ll be needing one, with frequent meetings and events to attend. Polish up your sense of humour - you really will get nowhere without that and match it with a rhino hide. There will be ongoing training and as you start to understand the different needs that children have from the challenges that life has thrown at them, then comes the lightbulb moment, when you look at little Billy having a complete meltdown and you see RIGHT THROUGH his behaviour and see the child, what a gift.
Fostering is both challenging and rewarding. Traumatised children will test you, they will want to know what happens when they push you to your limits, because they want to know that they are safe now and that you won’t be giving up on them. Most of them will have gone through more than you want to imagine. You can show them what childhood should be about, help them to grow into happy, confident young people and encourage them to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams. What better feeling could you get?
Written by L, an amazing woman, mother to many children - by birth, fostered and adopted. Proudly supported by Xcel2000 Fostercare Services.