Monday, April 04, 2016


From time to time I  meet with people who are thinking about fostering.

Blue Sky arranges get togethers for  couples and singles who are prowling around fostering, it's a big step, and a good one if it's the right one for you.

They sometimes invite some of their carers to mingle with the prospectives, they tell us to tell it like it is.

When I started fostering I got something wrong about the people who foster.

For some reason I expected foster parents to be drawn from a small and spectacular section of society. People of comfortable means who had time and wealth to spare in order to cascade their good fortune down to those who needed help.

I remember my first meeting with other prospective foster carers and how normal everyone was. There were about thirty of us.

A woman whose husband drove a minicab, she'd  been forced to give up work because of her hip.

An ex-teacher who found the modern demands too much and her partner, an ex-footballer.

A woman who had never worked, she called herself a housewife, and was nuts about doing something special with what she knew, which was running a house.

A young couple. A gay couple. A single divorcee. 

A soldier who'd been in the army I guess since he left school and looked about 35.

We all had one thing in common namely we weren't sure if we could do it.

I never found out exactly how many of the thirty grasped the nettle, I know quite a few did because I bumped into them again at support meetings. They had changed from being outsiders looking in to members of a proud community.

Not that foster carers go round patting each other on the back, there's work to be done. We help each other as much as any expert can. Maybe more. Only if you actually foster do you really know what fostering is all about.

We swap phone numbers and end up with a book of new friends. 

It's no exaggeration to say that most of by best friends now are fellow carers and they are much, much more than the type of friend people make with their work colleagues, mainly because fostering is different from any other type of work. It's your whole life, taking place in your home. It's full-on emotion. It's ups and downs, you don't do fostering you live fostering.

Monday mornings are a regular time for phone calls; we've got through the weekend, done the school run. The house is quiet if in dire need of a hoovering.

But before the housework comes a cup of tea and a catch-up. 

How are the children doing? What's the latest on their parents? 

How are you doing? Are you going to have a quick nap after the hoovering?

What I'm saying is something I've said before to people who are thinking about fostering;

If you have time to think about it you have time to make the phone call.

There's a child out there who needs you to make that call.


  1. I've wanted to be a Carer since I was a little girl. I've always sort of kept it on the down low because when I told my parents they said that I was too young to make my mind up because I didn't know what it would take. I'm 17 now and about a year ago I made a friend who happened to be in care. Unfortunately, she had never been placed in one of the good homes and now she is 17 and waiting to age out of the system. She was placed in a string of abusive homes because there is such a shortage of Carers who will take teens. Getting to know her was a privilege for me and it made me want to Foster even more. I started looking into the requirements and I stumbled across your blog. Within a few days I've read every post on here and I feel like I've learned so much. There were a lot of things that made me nervous about Fostering but your blog has reassured me. Where I live you have to be at least 21 to Foster, so it'll be a few more years yet, but I'm really looking forward to making that call! Thank you so much!

  2. You sound like a fantastic person. I hope your dream comes true, just think how many children you can help if you start fostering on your 21st birthday!
    Sorry to hear things could have been better for your friend, but hey at least she had you.
    I wish you every success and happiness in your chosen path.

  3. Thank you for this blog - I know how busy your life must be and it amazes me that you still manage to find the time to write in such an insightful way. You obviously care deeply about what you do & your children are very lucky to have you on their side.
    I feel very deeply that all children have the right to and need a nurturing childhood and here lies my dilemma, will I sacrifice my own 2 children's carefree childhood (age 4 & 11) by bringing children from a chaotic background into our family to fulfill my desire to 'make a difference'?
    I've had an informal discussion with our local fostering team but I just can't clear these doubts they're stopping me moving forward with my application.

  4. Aaaeee! You have the dilemma there in a nutshell.
    First, thank your for your kindness.
    Of course your own children mean more to you than anything.
    I know a foster mum who has three of her own and two foster sibs who swears her own children are more profound for the experience; she's fantastic, she makes sure her own children are players on the project.
    None of hers are as young as 4 though.
    If I read you accurately you are someone whose children are likely to pick up on your good work and benefit.
    You can always close your door, fostering is flexible.

    1. Very true - a good reminder that if my own children feel they're not coping with the new family demographic we can take a break for a few months; from what I've read most seem to believe that a looked after child should be 2 years younger than your birth youngest but I know my 11yo was hoping for somebody closer to her age, tricky ... but then I'm prone to over-thinking things at the risk of doing nothing and I truly believe that (especially given the recent heart-breaking headlines) we should all make that small difference to the world if we can.

  5. Hi again Ari, thanks for getting back with your thoughts.
    I haven't heard the notion that the ideal age for a foster child is two years younger than your own youngest, I can see the thinking though. And with your youngest being 4 I can see the attraction, as a 4 year old is going to seem that much more tender and therefore potentially vulnerable. Plus, as a parent you're cautious about your own child being presented with a wayward role model.
    However, if the child is right for your family, age doesn't matter - we foster parents have to make good whatever the dynamic.
    I like Mooglet's advice THE IMPACT OF FOSTERING ON OUR OWN CHILDREN, about trying a respite child, a weekend or a half term break with a foster child will inform all that thinking you talk about - which, by the way, we all do, all the time.

    1. Respite care first makes perfect sense & I hadn't thought of that ... thanks Mooglet!