Claire is a foster carer with St Christopher’s in the West Midlands. She talks about the impact fostering has had not just on the children she looks after, but on her own life too.
Why did you want to become a foster carer?
My cousin adopted a little boy and heard that children were “unadoptable” after four years old – so I thought, ‘What happens before they turn four and once they are older?’ These children stay in the care system, usually in foster care, so I wanted to help.
I had the time but waited until my son was older (he’s 23 now) so he had my full attention whilst he was growing up. I spoke to him about it and he was all for it, especially once he got back from some charity work he had been doing in Africa. So I made the call!
What did you look for in a fostering agency?
I researched a lot of fostering agencies to be honest, there are so many out there. The ones I discounted were very clinical and it seemed like children were not the priority. It was heads on beds – I didn’t like that as I wanted the children to be the main concern.
Then I found St Christopher’s. Their staff are there 24 hours a day, which the kids need because their issues don’t just go away at the end of the working day. And the young people know that staff are there for them – it’s not just empty promises, they turn up and support them even if it’s a quick phone call on their first day of school. It isn’t just a job, they genuinely care.
What’s your favourite thing about fostering?
It’s very rewarding, I couldn’t say this enough. With my first placement, a teenage boy, the difference in him in such a short time was so rewarding. He did extremely well here and we both learnt a lot.
One thing that a lot of children in care have in common is that they have zero confidence. They haven’t had the same experiences as other young people. One girl I cared for was petrified of everything like trying new foods or walking to the shop on her own. Just this morning she got on the bus to school without an adult, so I was so proud!
The little things are the best. I looked after a young girl and she went nine days without getting a detention at school. She was so proud of herself and it was a huge turning point – it boosted her confidence and made her realise she wasn’t “bad”. You watch them grow emotionally as well as physically, and they learn to see the good in themselves.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about fostering?
Do it! Just make the call. There is such a need for voices for children, they’re desperate for people to look after them. It is challenging but the rewards far outweigh it. With hindsight, I wish I had done it sooner!
I thought that being single would go against me and it doesn’t. There are so many people who think they can’t foster but you can. If you’ve got love and attention to give a kid the rest is paperwork. The kids don’t care if you’re single, gay, black, white – as long as they feel safe and secure.
What impact has fostering had on the lives of the children you look after?
The young girl I fostered is more aware and comfortable with who she is. She takes care of herself properly now and doesn’t put herself in danger, which she was doing from a very early age.
Children go into the care system and are just a number. Then they get to St Christopher’s and it’s different. The children I’ve looked after have lived with families at other fostering agencies and they said to me that they’ve never met people like the St Christopher’s staff. It’s because of all the activities St Christopher’s put on and the social workers, who are there 100% for the children. Mine have had to hear difficult news, but the staff have taken a much more thoughtful approach so that they can explain things properly and offer support afterwards. It’s not like that at all agencies.
Self-confidence is huge with children in care. They have low self-respect and self-esteem, so being able to watch them realise they’re actually worth something is fantastic.
What impact has fostering had on your own life?
My life is a whole lot richer and a lot more fulfilling – and it’s also fuller now, in a good way! Fostering has given me a whole new purpose in life because you can see the good it does immediately. The rewards are exceptional.
Could you transform a child’s life by becoming a foster parent? Find out more information here.
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