Our journey to becoming Foster Parents started with a conversation about how Ian was not getting any job satisfaction working as a Civil Servant for the DWP and how he wanted to do something more rewarding. Fostering was something that we had talked about previously but only as something that we would look at doing when we were older and more experienced. We spent some time researching and reading about the experiences of other Foster Parents and were inspired to try and make a positive difference to the lives of young people.
We were both very lucky and had happy childhoods and we wanted to give a young person the same opportunities and happy home life that we had been so fortunate to enjoy. We contacted By The Bridge as we liked that they they were so focussed on support and training for their Foster Parents. It took us around 5 months to became Foster Parents.
The process to become a Foster Parent for By The Bridge was very thorough and we had lots of opportunities to discuss with experienced professionals any concerns and worries that we had about becoming Foster Parents. For ourselves our main concern was that we didn't have any birth children and so we were worried about whether this lack of experience would mean we had not acquired the skills needed to support a young person.
Working through the assessment process we realised that we had a lot more experience and transferable skills than we had initially thought and we received training to prepare us for becoming Foster Parents. With regards to the concerns we had around getting a child where we could not meet the complex needs of the young person, By The Bridge only refer children to you which they think are appropriate matches and you are not under any obligation to accept a referral if there is anything you are not comfortable with. Foster Parents are encouraged to only say yes to a child when they are confident it is the right match for both themselves and the young person.
We have had 8 year old Thomas* in placement with us. It is really tough to pick out one individual highlight as Thomas* has come on in leaps and bounds and we could talk all day about the improvements and progress he has made both at home and at school. He has given us so much joy and reason to be proud. Some of the things that stand out as particularly noteworthy are his academic achievements at school which are all the more impressive as he spent some time out of mainstream education not long before his placement with us began. Thomas's* behaviour at school has also been upgraded from ‘cause for concern’ to ‘satisfactory’ for the first, which is a massive achievement.
Thomas's* performances in music and street dance events have been brilliant to watch as he has a lot of natural talent and he always performs with such enthusiasm. Thomas* has also learned to swim whilst living with us and has gone up a number of classes in his swimming lessons. The small things that Thomas* does every day though should not be overlooked, things like how open minded he is about trying new foods (to the point where he will now sometimes request mussels if asked what he would like for his dinner!) and how caring and kind he is to our pet dogs are daily highlights for us.
We have been very fortunate as Thomas* has been an excellent match for us and this has enabled us to make a positive difference to his life. Ian is the primary Foster Parent and so spends the most time with Thomas*as Sarah works full time. Thomas* needed a strong, positive male role model and so having Ian as the primary Foster Parent has been key in meeting Thomas*’s needs. We have also been able to provide Thomas* with the structure and boundaries that he needs at home and keeping firm boundaries in place has been an essential element in supporting Thomas* to make so many positive changes.
The fact that Thomas* is in a long term placement with us means that Thomas* knows he is not getting moved and that he is in every way part of our family, this has helped him to settle and become calmer. Thomas* really enjoys spending time with our families and views our parents as his grandparents and they see him as one of their grandchildren and so he benefits from being spoiled and treated in the way that only grandparents do. We have also tried to ensure Thomas* gets the opportunities that we were both lucky enough to enjoy as children and he has been able to choose activities and clubs to attend which include music lessons, street dance, Cub Scouts and swimming. Thomas's* Social Worker arranged for him to have a passport within a few months of him moving in with us and so we have also been able to take him abroad for summer holidays.
We could not have asked for a better Child than Thomas* but even though we have been very fortunate there are still some challenging days. But support we get from By the Bridge is excellent whenever called upon. Thomas* has made a number of disclosures about his past whilst living with us, which have been upsetting to hear and our social worker is always ready to listen and offer practical sensible advice. Out of hours there is always a social worker on call so you can seek advice and help if needed. Thomas* also expressed a wish to have someone that he could talk to outside of our family and his Social Worker and so By the Bridge provided him with a ‘listening ear’ who is someone that Thomas* can speak to if he ever wants to discuss anything that is worrying him.
Further to the support already mentioned, By the Bridge run lots of different training courses and support groups to continually upskill and support us as Foster Parents. Our experience of working with By the Bridge has been extremely positive and we are looking forward to many more years of fostering under their guidance.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the young person