Rob and Sarah have been Fostering with By the Bridge for seven years.
“From the start of our relationship, Sarah and I knew that we didn’t want to have any children of our own but wanted to help children within our community.
It all started when Sarah heard a By the Bridge advert on the Radio and spoke to me about the idea of Fostering a child. When first enquiring with By the Bridge, we were concerned that maybe we were too young to Foster (being only in our early thirties) but after speaking to the friendly team we were reassured that we were in-fact the perfect age. I was working for Mencap, supporting adults with additional needs but decided to step back from this role to become a full-time Foster Parent, with Sarah continuing in her role as a teacher. As a couple we always wanted to make a difference and feel that we have done just that by Fostering with By the Bridge.
As we haven’t any of our own children, we were concerned that we wouldn’t know how to parent and this would hold us back from Fostering. However, the training and support we have received from By the Bridge is wonderful and really helped to allay all our concerns.
By the Bridge’s Therapeutic background is what made them stand out to us when considering Fostering, as both my wife and I found it particularly interesting due to our working backgrounds and were very impressed at how as a Fostering Agency, they had the same values and beliefs as us, that all children in care should be offered Therapeutic care. We were fascinated by the Hemistich and Attachment theories, which were covered in our training and after taking part in the By the Bridge Therapeutic Thinking training - which is offered to all their Foster Parents - we can honestly say that it has helped us to develop and learn more about ourselves, which in turn has enabled us to be the best Foster Parents we can be.
We have had two main placements since we began Fostering, with our first child coming to live with us the day after passing Panel. The young man who arrived at our home six years ago as a twelve-year-old boy is now eighteen years old * and has developed into a wonderful young man, of whom we are very proud. He has recently completed his college courses, obtaining qualifications in ‘Animal Management’ and is now moving on to a Degree. Seeing the changes in his life and how his confidence has grown has been the most incredible thing to be a part of.
Not only has he achieved so much personally but together we now share our Fostering journey with other potential Foster Parents as part of the By the Bridge ‘Skills to Foster’ programme.”
Rob is also involved in the By the Bridge Mentoring programme, where he works with our children and young people, providing a strong male role model to those that may have missed out on this. He shares his own experiences with Foster Parents who are newer to Fostering and who may welcome advice and guidance around tricky or new challenges as well as offering short-term/day care Respite for some of our young people to give them, and their Foster Parents, a break from their usual routine and perhaps a particular challenging situation or conflict.
“We both enjoy sharing our experiences as Foster Parent and child and discussing the achievements and challenges we have faced together with potential new Foster Families. Both Sarah and I have many aspects of Fostering that we love, but seeing the difference that our support and guidance has made is our favourite part of being a Foster Family.
Fostering does not come without its challenges. Now that CN is eighteen, the challenges are different to those at the beginning. It can be hard to see mistakes being made, and to have to take the back seat and let him learn life lessons for himself but that is the scenario faced by all parents. If mistakes do happen, which every young person faces as they transition into adulthood, all we can do is be there to pick up the pieces and support him. When he was younger, we did face challenges with attachment and push/pull, as at times we would be in his good books but the next minute he would be testing boundaries and limitations to see how far he could push us. This was his way of ‘testing us’ to see if we would continue to support and be there for him or if we would give up on him entirely. We are extremely happy that we overcame these challenges together; and have built the wonderful relationship that we have today.
To anyone who is considering Fostering I would say, it will be the most challenging and difficult role you will ever take on but also the most fulfilling and rewarding. If we could turn back the clock we would have done it sooner. Seeing the changes that you are making to a child’s life every single day is so worthwhile and makes a huge difference to the child and the Foster Parent.
We would like to add that the amount of support that By the Bridge have given us each and every day is incredible – the Supervising Social Workers, Managers, and Out of hours team, they have all been truly amazing. There has always been someone there during the most challenging times and for that we are extremely thankful to By the Bridge.”
Rob & Sarah
(*Age correct at time of publication)