Mel and Shelly’s story

Mel & I, Shell, have been fortunate enough to be GLF foster carers since September 2018.

We feel extremely privileged to be GLF foster carers and to be in a position whereby we can empower and equip our most vulnerable children in our communities to live a happier life; to demonstrate how worthy they are and to provide them with the opportunity to separate their negative experiences from their true potential.

Mel and I fully believe in the acronym, CARE, and every single decision we make is centered around what CARE means to us as carers and as parents who have four children.

C stands for Compassion. Compassion for self and others. It is extremely difficult to provide compassion to others if our own self-talk is not compassionate. We live in a very fast paced society where we are constantly under so much pressure to perform, to be the very best and to be competitive. Teaching our children to be kinder to self and to others allows us to create a deeper self-worth, which is the bedrock for happiness.

A stands for affirmation. Affirmation to self and others. We find that self-affirmations help us to build our self-confidence and our ability to challenge ourselves and step out of our comfort zone. For us to secure a different result, we must take the risk to explore other behaviours and be more receptive to try new experiences. Affirming others also help us to create deeper connections with others.

R stands for Reflection. Mel and I have learnt that if we can encourage our children to create a space to pause and reflect, they take more responsibility for their desired outcomes or their decisions; they start to base their decisions that involves empathy and seeing that it is not always about the I, but the WE. Taking the time to be grateful for what you have or have achieved, as opposed to what you do not have or have not achieved makes a huge difference to how you navigate through life.

E stands for Enthusiasm. The enthusiasm to live life fully; to take an active approach to life and not to be a spectator of life. Screen time is a good indicator of whether we are participants or spectators of life. The enthusiasm to take on developmental feedback so you can self-improve; the enthusiasm to try new experiences. Having the right food, rest and life-style has a significant impact on how enthusiastic we approach life.

In summary, all the activities we engage our foster children in and the approach we take is hugely influenced by C.A.R.E.

Our foster children have all been receptive to a wide range of character, emotional intelligence and well-being bolstering interventions, such as baking cakes for a charity called Free Cakes For Kids; attending gardening sessions at Edible London; well-being days at Dalston Eastern Curve Gardens; Social Action Projects that raise money for a charity that promotes sustainable income in Pakistan; YMCA after school clubs; weekend drama classes; Communities that come together for Iftar.

Mel and I constantly search for these opportunities, especially ones that are free, as we want our foster children to see just how much there is out there. We also convey this to the natural birth parents, when appropriate.

We feel extremely fortunate that our values and approach is aligned with GLF, our incredible Supervising Social Worker, and the training and development opportunities GLF offer throughout the year.

 

Mel and Shelly are GLF foster carers.

Get in touch with Louise or James on 0208 347 8741  if you’d like to find out how you can become a foster carer

Novelette’s Story

My name is Novelette and I’ve been a foster carer for GLF for two years.

My first placement started in May 2017 with a 12 year old boy who still lives with my two daughters. He initially came to us for 6 months but as time went on the local authority decided it was a good match and a suitable home for him.

Deciding to become a foster carer was an easy decision because of my passion to mentor and give back to the community. I literally had no experience but I also have two birth children so I am able to use those transferable skills of being a mum to help make a difference in another child’s life.  My Aunt (who I lived with for a while) was also a foster carer for many years after being a retired nurse, so I was aware of the process and what was involved. I was also ready to welcome and accept foster children into my home.

The assessment process was quite intrusive but it had brought back many pleasant memories from my childhood days to the time I became being an adult. The process consisted of lots of talking about myself, which led to various discussions about who I was then to who I am now. During this assessment you also get to drink lots of tea with biscuits, cakes or fruits so no need to panic it’s a wonderful experience! The first few weeks of the assessment you will also be invited to attend training, giving you the necessary skills to foster. This also gives you the opportunity to meet other new foster carers, exchange numbers and build a support network.

to be quite frank fostering has strengthened my faith that even in to-days very cynical world love is still the most important thing we can share

The key point of being a foster carer is being kind, caring and understanding as these qualities often bring out the best in the child and also open up lines of communication and interaction.

Fostering involves the whole family so it will have great impact on everyone at home.  My daughters were excited to have a new addition to the family member. They were also willing to share their mum and quality time as well as coping with behaviours and needs.  Not every day is the same – there are ups and downs. But to be quite frank fostering has strengthened my faith that even in to-days very cynical world love is still the most important thing we can share.

I strongly believe in shaping the child’s life into becoming a productive and successful person after leaving school

I am pleased with GLF’s full support.  There are lots of opportunities for training and development. My supervising social worker is just a call away for any query I may have.  Even though I am also in full time employment with the NHS, I am able to carry out my care duties effectively and attend regular meetings and any additional training required. I strongly believe in shaping the child’s life into becoming a productive and successful person after leaving school, so I play an active role in his education and communicate with the school and teachers on a regular basis. I would also encourage arranging extra tuition where necessary and to be actively involved in activities to help build on his skills and experiences.

My young person recently took part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which involved volunteering as a youth worker at the playground adventure. These activities were fitted in around his studies. His recent Army Cadet role has also motivated him to work independently, meeting targets and deadlines.

Fostering is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs you can do

I would also encourage my young person to write letters and update his photo album and show these to mum and siblings at contacts. I genuinely support positive relationship with birth family so that my young person can have a good understanding of his culture and family history.

My advice to those who would like to become a foster carer – Fostering is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs you can do and no qualification is required. There are lots of supports in place for foster carers from both your fostering service and your support network.

It’s highlighted for me how much giving my time – which is a precious commodity for anyone to give – and emotionally investing in another person can matter and make such a difference to his/her life. In doing so you are providing a safe, warm, loving environment for someone who needs such support in order to feel that they belong somewhere, enhance their strengths, develop their potential and become the best person they can be.

Novelette is a GLF Foster Carer

Get in touch with Louise or James on 0208 347 8741  if you’d like to find out how you can become a foster carer

Consider Teenagers

Hi, my name is Chrissy,

I have a daughter Elizabeth she is currently 8 years old. We would love to share with you our experiences with fostering teenagers.

I have over the years fostered many teenagers. Five to be exact. No I am not a machine, nor am I oblivious to the challenges everyone faces when parenting/raising or fostering a teenager. My experience have been varied and I would like to share with you the positives to taking on a teenager.

Many shy away from taking a teenager into their home and here are some of the reasons why…

  1. We have all heard the stories from many in the Fostering community that their young person is always missing from placement. They never return or never home on time.
  2. We hear stories about how they address us and their environment.
  3. Using the house like a hotel.

All sound familiar?

Well let me shed some light on the positives. My first teenager was very distant. Had a life of her own before coming into my care. She had her own set of friends. Went to school independently. Was accountable for herself. She followed her own set of rules and made her own boundaries. She did what she wanted and went where she pleased.

After coming into my care and loving in my home. I am sure she was overwhelmed with the rules and safer caring policy. I am sure that this all seemed alien to her. I am sure that all of a sudden she has to follow rules, boundaries and had to make sure she informed me of her whereabouts. Theses things were non negotiable (keeping in with the placement agreement and safer caring policy set out by the agency and Local authority) I am confident that this provoked feelings inside her we could never understand.

Not only did this YP not ask for this situation but now she has to follow rules from a stranger and claims that it’s to keep her safe. Something she has been doing herself for many years.

I first was met with this challenge within the first year of fostering. I can tell you that it isn’t much fun when you have never been faced with a teenager before. But I embraced all that was available to me. Went on as many courses as I could. Gained confidence in my abilities. Then applied this to my young person.

To my amazement and joy, with every day that passed life got easier for myself and my young person. We established a great relationship of mutual respect and trust. We lived separate but joined lives, and in time we became close. She trusted I was there to help guide and care for her. She trusted to come to me. She trusted that even if she made mistakes, we would be able together to resolve them.

We did make positive steps. We worked together in making agreements about home times. We worked together with house chores.

We shared stories together and went for meals. We shared in liked interests and explored new ones together.

I helped her emotional development, through communication and role modelling. Slowly but surely I saw what can only be described as a metamorphosis. It was beautiful to watch her grow and blossom. I saw with my own eyes her mature.

My YP taught me a lot about the here and now.  The world of teenagers. Allowed me access to how they view the world today, and how much it differs from when I was a teenager. She gave me much more than I expected.

I am grateful for that early experience and will hold that close to my heart as I will all my placements.

I guess I wanted to say that there is so much more to teenagers than meets the eye. Don’t see it as a challenge but a chance to grow.

If you’d like to find out more about fostering then get in touch on 0208 347 8741 or download our guide here

Mum: ‘I’m going to be a foster carer!’ Me: ….’What does that mean?’

Fostering doesn’t only change the lives of children in care, it also affects the lives of the foster carers birth children. 

Princess’ mum became a foster carer, this is her story.

When I was 16 I didn’t care about much else but hanging out with my friends and family, listening to music, animals and beating all my guy friends at the latest PlayStation games just to prove that girls can do anything boys can, but better! So it was a big surprise for me when my mother told me that she wanted to be a foster carer. I wasn’t all too sure what that would mean, but I knew my mother was very excited about it as she told me with a big smile on her face. She absolutely adores children and helping others who are in need, so of course it was perfect for her.  But honestly I wasn’t too sure.

Being the youngest out of five I was always used to being the centre of attention and the one everyone spoils, so the idea that someone much smaller than me could be living with us for a while was bizarre to me. I had lots of questions ‘ what will these children be like?’ , ‘What if someone my age comes and we don’t get along?’, ‘Will they stay with us forever?’. My mother told me that it would be a lovely thing to do to help a child who may be in a situation where their childhood wasn’t as great as mine was and she reminded me just how much I loved and enjoyed my niece and nephew. Which was true…apart from the changing of their nappies and having them draw all over my bedroom walls I did love children as much as my mother and my whole family did too. I imagined myself being a big sister to them and teaching them all the things I know like how to balance a spoon on your nose and the importance of taking in part in games but never getting sour grapes if you lose…just get them back next time by being better!

So when the time came and we fostered a brother and sister who were under the age of 5, I was nervous but excited to get to know them. It was such a lovely experience, especially as I had never been a big sister before but now I had to help my mother look after two little ones who looked up to me.

They were funny and had so much personality and I felt myself filling up with so much love for them and just wanting them to have a great time whilst they were with us. When we were eventually told that they were going to be adopted, I was shocked and upset as it meant they would be leaving us soon. I wouldn’t be a big sister anymore. I spoke to my mother about how I was feeling and I’m glad I did as she assured me that it was a good thing and that it was always going to be short term. She also mentioned to me that they would be going to two nice people who have always wanted children and we should be happy about this. I sulked for a while and went to my room blasting out some emotional music and was thinking to myself ‘this isn’t fair!’ But when I met the adoptive parents my feelings changed and I saw that the kids really liked them. They were happy. The parents thanked us for everything we had done with the kids and that my mother was a great foster carer and they had enjoyed this time with her helping them to get to know the children. I beamed at my mother and thought I have never been so proud of her. It was true she was amazing at what she did.

Now over ten years later my mother is still fostering children and me being at home still has made me witness just what it is like to be in family who foster.

My brothers and sisters don’t live at home anymore however they are also fully involved when we foster children or mother and child placements. We are a close knit family so we like getting everyone together including the foster placements (children or mother and child), for picnics in the park, dinners and occasionally a game of bowling which will always begin with my brother thinking he can beat everyone and then soon realising he has the lowest score! Every foster placement we have had enjoyed being involved and treated like they were family, which I think is very important if you want to be a foster carer.

For me now I mostly help my mother with caring for the children we may have whether it be to babysit, to cook dinner  or to help them with homework… but certainly not maths it’s always been my worst subject! So I am quite involved with the everyday care which is not an issue to me as it’s always been a part of my life for a long time now.

Fostering has affected me by making me a better person I think. Not that I wasn’t before, but it’s really made me sensitive to others situations and has made me realise how important it is for everyone to be cared for and to live somewhere where they feel safe. Which I think are little things we tend to take for granted. Just seeing children and young people progressing and making good changes in their lives, smiling more and genuinely being happy makes it all worth it.

This is also in the case of mother and child placements. Seeing mothers figuring out what’s best for their child/children and gaining advice from my mother or myself and putting it into action; then finally getting their children back in their full care. It’s enough to make you happy about what you do and experience just how rewarding fostering is.

We work hard with mothers and at times this can be challenging, as a lot don’t like the idea of someone telling them how to look after their own child. Which I feel is understandable. However being patient with them and reminding yourself just how they must feel living in another’s home and having people involved heavily in their life, helps you to connect with them. Thus they feel they can see you more like a friend who only wants the best for them and especially their child. Which hopefully results in them making better choices and leaving placement with smile on their face as they walk out the door with their child.

Overall I would say fostering is an amazing thing to do. My advice for anyone who wants to foster is to go for it ! If you love children and feel you can bring some sunshine to their life for however long you have them, then do it. Yes it can be hard at times accepting others in your home, or having another child amongst the ones you have already (including emotional teenagers like I was haha) but you will get to see just how wonderful it is to make a great impact on someone’s life.

Fostering and the Christian Faith

Fostering and the Christian faith seem to have many close parallels and flow one from the other.

You don’t necessarily need to have a strong faith in order to feel compassion for a fellow human being and especially a vulnerable child. There can an innate desire to help where possible, and to share some of the home comforts we take for granted.

Of course taking strangers into your home is not a trivial thing, and it will impact upon all the current household. There needs to be agreement from everyone that the fostered child will be welcomed and integrated into the family and any house rules.

Certain core Christian values seem to support fostering. Everyone’s right to privacy and security needs to be recognised. People need their own space wherever possible, and rules such as always knocking on doors before entering should be adhered to.

We have found eating our main meal seated together as a family a great integrator, and a way to discuss any household issues. Other activities together, such as a simple game of cards further the bonding process, and allow expression whilst having fun.

The opportunity to attend church on a Sunday of course is always there, but never forced upon the child. Should they practice any other faith, then naturally this is to be respected and supported in a practical sense as needs be.

Fostered children are often coming from chaotic backgrounds, so it will be a culture shock to enter a calm, disciplined Christian household. Patience is needed to manage this transition, and allow the child time to adjust and find trust in this new environment.

We have found routine a wonderful settler where the child knows what to expect and the standards that are expected in return. Bed times are regulated to ensure sufficient rest for school the next day, and any tablets or phones are switched off some time before bed to aid good quality sleep.

We stress the importance of not lying as a fundamental value, and always feeling able to express an opinion or voice any concern.

It is always a useful exercise to allow the child to draw up their own house rules and these can then be amalgamated with any existing rules to provide a clear pathway forwards. Children are encouraged to help around the house, assisting in everyday chores such as washing up or cleaning. This teaches useful life skills as well as a sense of responsibility in contributing towards the house running.

Being a Christian means helping others to be the very best they can be, after providing the safe haven they needed. A child’s interests should be encouraged, and progress praised in any new developing skills.

Living in a foster home promotes respect for others. We can all learn from each other, and in time grow as a family unit. It’s not always an easy process, particularly when the child is first placed in a foster home. Sometimes the placement will break down, and it will be in the best interests of everyone that another home is found. The carers need to be flexible to this, yet steadfast in their willingness to help, and provide security.

We are all God’s children. He loves us all and will provide for us all in time as we place our trust in him. Fostering is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that whilst living a Christian life.

Richard is a foster carer with Greater London Fostering.

Call 0208 347 8741 or email  [email protected] if you’ d like to find out more. We welcome people from any religious or non-religious background.

Fostering – What’s Stopping You?

The decision to become a foster carer isn’t an easy one to make. Fostering will have an impact on not only the child in care, but your life and your family’s life too. There’s a lot to think about so it’s natural to have concerns. Every day I talk to people who are interested in fostering and there seems to be a certain level of reluctance to ask certain questions. Maybe they think it’s cheeky to ask about money? Maybe they don’t want to appear like they couldn’t manage if they were to foster.

How will your family feel about sharing their home with someone they don’t know? How will you fit in the endless meetings, contact and school-run alongside your own career? What if the child you foster doesn’t like you? There is a lot to think about. So let’s talk about what’s stopping you from fostering…

Money, money, money  

Feel like money could be a problem? Nobody fosters for the money, but the extra income you get a carer certainly helps. Part of the decision to foster should be to consider how it will affect the level of income you’ll be receiving. It might be the case that you decide to reduce your contract, to work part time. Foster carers should be financially stable without the fostering allowance. That’s why many of our carers continue to work part time or full time.

Think you can’t foster because you work? Ultimately, we ask that our carers are financially stable without the fostering allowance they receive. A lot of our foster carers continue to work, either full time or part time. It’s just important that you have a support network of family and friends who can help you.

Help (I need somebody)

Feel like you won’t be able to manage on your own? The short answer is we don’t expect you to! When you become a foster carer, you will be assigned a social worker, who will support you throughout your fostering experience. GLF also runs regular support groups and training courses.

You might be worrying about whether you meet our requirements. When it comes to the things that are a definite ‘no, you can’t foster’, there aren’t as many as you might think.

Whats love got to do with it?

Think you can’t foster because you’re not in a relationship? You don’t have to be in a couple to foster. You can be married, in a long term relationship or single. Families come in all shapes and sizes, so you won’t be judged for the size of yours.

Think you can’t foster because you’re gay? It doesn’t matter if you are gay, lesbian, trans-gender or heterosexual. We live in a diverse culture and we want this to be reflected in our fostering community. Your sexuality really doesn’t matter to us. What’s important is the experience and support you can bring to your role as a foster carer.

Think you can’t foster because you’re too old or too young? You can become a foster carer if you are over 21 years old and there is no upper age limit. As long as you are fit and able enough to look after children, then you can foster.

There are thousands of children needing foster families. These children come from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, religions. We need foster carers to reflect this diversity. So, regardless of your age, ethnicity, employment or relationship status and as long as you have a spare room and the time, the reality is you could probably foster.

If you are thinking about it then get in touch, ask a question, start the journey. We’re ready and waiting for your questions!

Louise is a recruitment officer at Greater London Fostering.