It’s one of the toughest jobs around and there are millions who do it uncomplainingly day in, day out.
You would think being a full-time mum was enough but one in Derby is calling on others like her in the area to consider becoming foster carers.
In other words, welcoming foster children into their own households.
According to Debbie Smith, it’s beneficial not only for the foster carer or parent, but for the children too.
Debbie only started fostering a year ago after a wide variety of careers, ranging from being a prison instructor to running a bar and restaurant in Spain.
But she said her current role as foster carer to two siblings, aged seven and 15, has proved to be the most rewarding so far.
Debbie said: “It’s the hugs and thank yous you receive when you least expect them.
“Fostering is a 24/7 commitment, but I don’t get the same type of stress which came with previous jobs I’ve worked in. It has enhanced my life, and best of all it has allowed me to be a kid again.”
Debbie first looked into fostering after deciding she needed a change of career. Having always enjoyed being around children, and being the mum of two daughters, fostering seemed like a good fit for her.
She contacted fostering and adoption charity TACT and, with its help and advice, she passed the intensive assessment process and finally became an approved foster carer in 2017.
In early 2018 the siblings were placed with her.
As well as her two foster children, Debbie has her own teenage daughter living at home, so she has to divide her time between them.
She said: "I did have some reservations when first looking into fostering, relating to the impact it would have on my daughter – having teenagers in the house gave me particular concern.
“However, TACT have made it clear that we are never under any obligation to take a placement if we decide it’s not the best fit for us, and between myself and TACT we put high importance on matching to make sure the placement will be beneficial for me, my daughter and the young people I’m caring for.”
Debbie feels that her daughter is learning some important life lessons as a result of being part of a family that fosters.
She said: “Overall, my daughter has enjoyed her experience of growing up in a fostering household, and although it is sometimes difficult for her sharing mummy, I think the experience has made her more caring and understanding of the world around her.”
And being part of a happy, blended family has had positive repercussions for her foster children too. Debbie said: “I think their experience of growing up in a household like mine with my daughter has enabled them to see what it’s like to live as part of a positive, loving family where they are helped and encouraged.
“They’ve witnessed routines and social norms and experienced an organised rather than a chaotic life, learning about what is expected of them and what is acceptable.”
In terms of professional support, TACT provides lots of training which Debbie has taken full advantage of, and there are also monthly support groups.
TACT staff are always available.
Overall, Debbie feels that she made the right decision to become a foster carer.
The said: “While fostering has at times been challenging I think overall the positive change I’m bringing about to these young people who have had a difficult start in life makes it all worth it. It’s nice to be able to devote all my time and attention between the young people I care for and my own family, allowing me to be a full-time mum and carer.”
“I’d encourage anyone who has reservations about fostering due to having their birth children in the household to go for it – the matching process between your family and the young people is important, but once it’s made well, your children and the foster children can have such a positive effect on one another.”
There is currently a need for 500 more foster families in the East Midlands. TACT says it is “more than just a fostering agency; as a charity we put children at the heart of everything that we do and all of our surplus income goes back into services for our carers and the children that they look after”.
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