Children in fostering families will have different experiences to their parents. Here is one young person’s fostering experience, his parents have been foster carers with us for many years. He tells us how fostering has changed things at home for him, how he manages the ups and downs, and how overall, it has made him a better person.
Finding out about fostering
My parents first told me about fostering and I didn’t know what it was. I was young and I believed that every family was the same as mine. They explained that if they became Foster Carers we would have children staying at our house that couldn’t stay in their own home. Sometimes for just one night, sometimes for longer.
I felt strange, it was like being told I was getting a brother or sister, but I wasn’t. It was a bit scary knowing that I was going to have to share my life, but I was excited to get to meet new people.
My mum and dad had lots of meetings, and I remember social workers coming to the house and asking me about my family life. As I was young, I drew a picture to show how my family worked.
”It was a bit scary knowing that I was going to have to share my life, but I was excited to get to meet new people.
My mum would always make sure my room was tidy before the social worker visited. It annoyed me though, as when the social worker visited I wasn’t allowed in the same room as her and my parents. I wanted to know what was being said, but my mum said things need to be confidential, I’ve had to get used to that! They told me what I needed to know, not all I wanted to know.
My mum and dad had to go to panel and then they were approved as foster carers. My mum and dad always told me that my sister and I were still the most important people to them, and if there were problems, we should tell them.
Changes at home
Some things changed in our house, to create good habits. I wasn’t allowed to come out the shower any more with just a towel on, or to look for my school trousers in just my underwear. My mum said we had to be more private, this annoyed me, but it wasn’t really a big deal. My mum said it was to keep us safe and to keep the children safe. Dressing gowns need to be worn even on pyjama days. We had to chap doors if they are shut and wait to be invited in. If I am in the room with one of the children, the door has to be open. The rules are the same for all the children.
Children coming to stay
Sometimes children come to stay with us as planned, sometimes they’re a total surprise! My parents always tell me if they know someone is coming to the home. If we have their name it helps. We prepare as much as we can and get a bed ready, and we have a big supply of spare toothbrushes.
My parents have covered emergencies where they get phone calls for a child needing help. One time I went to bed and everything was normal. When I woke up the next morning, there was a strange child lying in my spare bed fast asleep. I got a real fright and my mum came to the door and whispered not to be scared, she took me out the room and told me that the child had arrived in the middle of the night with his sister who was asleep in my sister’s room.
”My mum came in with a tiny baby. He was only 8 hours old, so small and cute. He stayed with us for 10 days and I fell in love.
Another emergency call my mum got was to go to hospital. My aunt watched us as my dad was working, a few hours later my mum came in with a tiny baby. He was only 8 hours old, so small and cute. He stayed with us for 10 days and I fell in love.
Other children have shared my life for longer, we’ve had one boy who has lived with us for 4 years. He had stayed when he was younger and asked to come back. He has been on holiday with us and joined the same clubs I was involved in. He gets presents from all my family at his birthday and Christmas. Sometimes we argue, sometimes we gang up on my mum – she says!
It's not all lovely
Fostering is trying to help children and give them a safe place, but it’s not always good. My friends sometimes think that my parents have taken the children away from their families. Some of my friends ask me why my parents are like that, I’ve had to explain that it’s not true while still protecting that child’s confidentiality.
It’s hard to deal with this. A lot of people don’t understand why someone would let strangers live in their home and I have to defend that.
The children have had a different life to me, and some don’t know how to follow rules. I’ve had toys deliberately broken and my walls drawn on to make it look like I had done it, these things can be quite upsetting.
”A lot of people don’t understand why someone would let strangers live in their home and I have to defend that.
I’ve had to handle many different situations that would not have happened if I was not a child in a family who fosters and I’ve learnt that I must talk to people to share the difficulties.
I always talk to my parents first, and my sister.
There’s also the sons and daughters group, which really helps to be able to talk to other young people living the same life as me. Sometimes it can be quite lonely because you can’t talk to your own friends about it due to confidentiality. As a family we also have a social worker, and it’s good to talk to them too.
”I’ve learnt to be calm and to take myself away if there’s any problems. I’ve learnt to see both sides of a situation.
By talking to people, it always helps, and I get techniques shown to me on how to manage. Or my mum often explains why a situation happens, and when I understand that better it makes me see things differently. My social worker is good at reminding me of why the children have came to my home, and some of the reasons they can’t be at their own place.
I’ve learnt to be calm and to take myself away if there’s any problems. I’ve learnt to see both sides of a situation.
Sometimes saying goodbye to the children can be hard, sometimes it can be good.
When a person has lived with you and you’ve developed an attachment to them, they become like family. Seeing them leave is like your own brother or sister walking away forever and you don’t know if you’ll ever see them again. You just have to deal with that. Sometimes they leave when you’re not there and you walk in after a day at school and they’re just gone. It can really hurt.
If you haven’t really built a relationship with them it can be easier to say goodbye. It can also be easier if the children are happy to leave, if they are happy and looking forward to their future then you can share those feelings too.
”I feel good that we have done something so good and helpful that this person still wants to be a part of our lives.
One child who stayed with us was a little older than me, we got on really well and shared a lot of things. He loved our home and my parents, and did not want to leave, we all loved him too. But it was agreed that he should go home, and while he was looking forward to going home he was worried too. Saying goodbye was really hard. He became a good friend to me. We gave him a little party and all the family said goodbye. I feel really lucky as this person has been able to stay in touch, he has visited and stayed over, and messages us often. I feel good that we have done something so good and helpful that this person still wants to be a part of our lives.
Another person that was hard to let go was a baby. We wanted to keep him! Having a baby to stay was great, and I’ve realised how much I like them. The baby was going to another foster carer and would be adopted, I wished he could stay with us until his adoption, but my parents explained the longer he stayed with us the harder it would be to say goodbye. I knew we had to let him go. I have a photo of him to remember him by and I think about him often.
Who I am because of fostering
I feel fostering has given me an understanding outside of my normal. I’ve learned that my life, where my parents are healthy and I have a home, food on the table, warm bed, getting to clubs and having love and care around me, is not the life that everyone has.
I appreciate these things more and I maybe wouldn’t have given that the same thought if my parents didn’t foster.
I’ve gained friends, some that call me brother, and I hope those relationships will last. My eyes have been opened to a bigger world, and it can be very bad and scary.
I think fostering has made me a better person. I feel that I have learned a lot from it. I like who I am, and what it has given me.
”I think fostering has made me a better person...I like who I am, and what it has given me.