When first asked why we wanted to foster by our Assessing Social Worker I found my thoughts and feelings hard to explain. I just thought it was a good thing to do. I think I might have used the word ‘altruism’. Pam, the Social Worker, liked that word and made a note of it. Some Foster Carers are motivated by faith, some by a desire for justice and some of us probably enjoy the martyrdom.
What we rarely mention is how much we get from it.
My friend Alison started fostering in 2016.
A 9 year old foster child arrived at Alison’s home with a reticence that gave some insight into her confusion and fear. As can often be the case, this fear showed itself through angry outbursts, and seemingly irrational behaviour that showed no concern for consequence. This little girl had never been taught what was safe and what wasn’t, what was socially appropriate and what was dangerous to herself and those who were around her.
Convincing her to visit the local shop to choose an Easter Egg, and being convinced that she could manage the journey safely, was a Herculean task requiring all of Alison’s patience, training and resourcefulness. The subsequent trip to the local park for a mini egg hunt was managed with both metaphorical and literal hand holding, reassurance, and encouragement.
For the girl to engage with new adults and new children was a great achievement. Milestones are different when you foster.
5 years on, that same child spent the Easter holidays with Alison in London.
She’d won a place in National Youth Music Theatre and spent a week doing rehearsals with boys and girls from across the country.
She managed to have a vaccination without needing Entonox, a mix of gas and air, often used to treat pain during childbirth.
And, just like the young lad in Goodnight Mr Tom, she’s learnt to ride a bike.
Alison is rightly proud of her young charge. This young girl has overcome obstacle after obstacle and is showing a resilience and fortitude that belies her background. The safe home that Alison has provided, has given this girl the skills and confidence to navigate the world around her.
Although unassuming, Alison is also proud of the difference she herself has made. As she has said to me:
“These stories illustrate the difference that fostering can make, and how incredibly satisfying it can be for the foster carer”.
Fostering can be challenging, exhausting and even gruelling, but sometimes it’s absolutely brilliant.