Written by Helen Mitchell
When we told people we wanted to foster the reactions were all pretty positive, most people told us we would be amazing. Quite often I would be thinking the opposite, that I was crazy, that I couldn’t even look after my boys that well, never mind having more in the house. I think some people were worried that it would be a lot of hard work, but we have had nothing but support from our friends and family.
Daniel, my husband, and I talked about how many children we’d like before we got married in 2008. We also both said that eventually we’d also like to adopt. Two children later, we learned about older children not being able to get adopted into families as they are sadly seen as being too damaged. We wanted to adopt older kids, but in order to do that we would have to wait till our children were older.
Earlier this year, we went along to an information meeting at the town hall to find out more about the process and from there we decided we would sign up. After that, we had to go through a lot of different procedures, the first being a visit from a social worker to talk about the journey some more. Then came a two day training course – which told us all the highs and lows that you can expect from fostering.
From there we had to wait until a social worker was available to assess us. This took about 8 weeks of the social worker coming to see us and chat through our lives from birth to now. We found this quite interesting, although I know some people find it daunting – not once did I feel like our social worker was judging us.
At the end of the process, we get to read everything that they had written about us before it goes to a panel of people. The panel read it and then met with us to ask us any questions they wanted to before deciding if we were suitable to foster.
Daniel and I were so happy when we were deemed suitable. Not long after we were gifted with two girls.
My day starts at 6 am, my alarm goes off and up I get. First things first, the kettle goes on, I then make pack lunches for whoever needs one that day. At 7 am, I go upstairs to wake everyone up. This often takes a while on a school day – not on a weekend though, they’re up bang on 7 without any help from me. When the girls first arrived, I would help our youngest to get dressed but since she’s been with us she has learnt to get dressed by herself, this is a lovely accomplishment.
While everyone is getting up, I go downstairs to get breakfast ready. One by one they come down and sit around the table to have their cereal and milk. Once breakfast is eaten they do their teeth, when the girls first came to us they would ask, “Why do we need to do our teeth again”. Now they happily do it using an app on my phone that has Pokémon timing them. Then the girls have to do their hair. They start off the brushing and I finish, usually with tears, brushing out knots. This is a bit of a shock to the system as I have short hair and have only had to look after boys before now.
At 8 am, we leave the house, taking the boys to a friend of mine so that she can take them to school while I take the girls to their school. As it’s a short term foster placement, we keep the children in their own schools so they are with the friends and teachers that they’re familiar with.
During the day I will fill in logs that give an account of what’s happened the day before. Sometimes I plan fun things for us to do at the weekend, I see friends or watch TV at times too. Some days it’s my downtime as I know that once I pick the kids up it’ll be all go until 9 pm that evening.
At 2:30 pm, I go to pick up the girls from school and take them to see their mum at a contact centre – these are supervised by social workers. Once I have dropped them off, I go and pick my boys up from a friend. Each week the girls get an hour with their mum in person and then another 2 hours using facetime, due to COVID-19. The girls are amazing and when it’s time to leave their mum they just say goodbye without any fuss and come back with me.
In the evening, we usually read a story with them and make time to have a chat. We have also been enjoying watching The Great British Bake Off on catch up and so often we do that too just before bed. Teeth are done again – which was a shock to the girls at first and then they all go to bed whilst listening to a story.
Fostering is an amazing journey, we get to see our foster children thrive in our care, simply by doing what we are already doing with our boys. We are also learning, learning to be more patient, learning to do things differently when they don’t work for four children. We see different things in our children that we wouldn’t have seen if there weren’t extra children for them to show empathy towards or care for.
My two boys love the girls. At times it is difficult, the girls quite often get a lot of gifts when they go to see family members and the boys see that as being unfair, but we have talked through this. They also fall out sometimes, which again is hard, but they did that before we had extra children in the house. Boys will be boys!
For anyone looking into or wanting to foster, go for it! You don’t have to be married or own your own house, you don’t have to be heterosexual, or older and more ‘wise’. If you are interested in it get in touch with your local foster team and they’ll be able to give you all the information you need.