Welcome to my first blog post. I’ve been a foster carer for GLF for 4 years and to date have been lucky enough to have fostered 9 amazing kids. Their ages have ranged from 8 weeks old to 14 years old. For me, deciding to become a foster carer was an easy decision to make because my parents are foster carers and have been since I was a young child. I have had over 30 foster brothers and sisters so as you can probably imagine there was never a dull moment in our house!!
Through my parents I have been involved in the fostering community nearly my whole life. Following in their footsteps and becoming a foster carer myself was something I dreamed of for a long time and because of their work I already knew what to expect and what was involved and felt very confident that I had what it takes to welcome foster kids into my home to live as part of my family.
Maybe if I hadn’t of had the knowledge from my parents and the experience I gained in growing up within the fostering community my decision wouldn’t have been so easy and maybe I wouldn’t have been so keen to take a personal walk down the fostering path. I cannot imagine how empty life would have been without the joy (amongst the chaos) that my 9 foster kids have given me.
I am passionate about trying to spread the word to all the non-fostering people out there in the hope that maybe others can see that foster kids urgently need families, they need people like me, like my parents and like YOU (YES YOU) to give them a chance. To give them what many of us take for granted, a safe, warm loving home to call their own, educational opportunities, life skills, health and fitness, mentoring, encouragement, forgiveness, love and above all the ability to find and have happiness in their life.
There is still a huge shortage of foster carers in the UK in 2016 and I wonder why. Why do you think this is? I’d love to hear your thoughts! From my experience people often seem to have an unrealistic view of us foster carers that we are some kind of superheroes, or even saints. Trust me we are neither! We are all ordinary people and very much less than perfect just like you perhaps! Take me for example well I am definitely the less than perfect foster carer but that hasn’t stopped me from TRYING to give my very best to my foster kids and mistakes (more on these later) and all it hasn’t stopped them from flourishing in my care and having the chance to enjoy lots of positive experiences they can look back on when they are older and cherish. Children don’t need perfect people as foster carers otherwise how will they learn to cope in life when things go wrong?
I’d like to share with you one sunny but slightly windy (with the emphasis on windy) day in the summer of 2015. I hope it might help you see that even the most well-meaning foster carer can have the odd mishap or two and that really we foster carers are only human!
My 5 year old foster-son has spent weeks in training for this…his school sports day! Every day after school encouraging him to run as far and as fast as he can, all the way screaming until my voice hurts ‘DON’T STOP KEEP GOING’ as he gets further and further away across the park.
Today I line up with the other parents along the trackside nervously wondering if he will even find the courage to start the race. He’s a terribly shy boy prone to just bursting into tears in public at the tiniest little thing always clinging to me for comfort and reassurance. As I dropped him off this morning his last words were to me were ‘don’t worry I know if I fall I’ve to get up and keep going until I finish the race’. I smile at him as well as to myself and say ‘well done darling you do that as it’s not the winning it’s the taking part’. ‘You know that right?” I ask him for the millionth time this week.
‘Yes’ he tells me he knows that!
I’m cheering, I’m then screaming and I’ve forgotten all the other parents are around me as I shout at the top of my voice just as I have done every night in the park…’DON’T STOP, KEEP GOING’ He knows and he can hear me as I see him focusing on my face and my voice as he runs way ahead of all the other kids. Then I’m crying before he even reaches the finish because I know he has won.. The proudest day of my life. He won the minute he stood at the start of the race and took part in it, coming first was just the icing on the cake. Ok so it’s only a kids sports day but for this little man attempting that race and winning that race meant way more as it showed him he could do it that and nothing could hold him back. That finally he was good at something, something he loved.
Later that afternoon I proudly picked him up from the School at home time. His face beaming with happiness. Other kids and parents were all congratulating him in the playground his whole body was puffed up from pride. I felt so emotional again and grateful that all the weekend & after school walks and runs had paid off. Coaching him to not stop running, explaining to him time and time again if he falls to get up and keep running and to finish the race even if he comes last. I realised that day when he lined up with the other kids and went down into the crouched position like the Olympic athletes on the iPad we had watched over and over on YouTube do, that perhaps I had been a bit over enthusiastic in my training approach as the other kids were looking at him as if to say what an earth is he doing down there….. Embarrassing really but I wasn’t to know that they don’t teach kids the professional racing positions at primary school level sports day!
He had been given a sticker shouting a big 1 on it as a prize for coming first. Even though he had only owned it a few hours it had already now lost it stickiness and was shabby and torn. He had been showing it to everyone he could as if it were a gold shiny medal. He carried it all the way to the car very carefully and I promised him I would help him later find somewhere safe to keep it. Though the sun was in the sky there was a wind about and as I was fussing over his baby brother about to get him out of his buggy to put in the car, I heard him screaming my name at the top of his voice and then a ‘MY STICKERRRRRRR AHHHHHHHH’ !!! I turned sharply to look at him, tears already flooding his face as he hysterically pointed at the tiny scrap of the sticker now blowing freely in the wind at a rapid speed through the carpark. Without a second thought I just lurched like a huge buffalo after it. School bags, crisps, water bottles, toys and the 101 other things that kids seem to accumulate at hometime for parents to carry, dropped at my feet whilst I screamed nooooooo.
My summer dress pulled up to my knees, one flip flop flying off my foot in a very undignified scramble as I attempted to catch the runway sticker. I felt his utter despair at losing what was the representation of something he had worked so hard for, something that he was finally good at. What had been weeks of work and months of confidence building and I just couldn’t let it be lost. I flew after it like it was a winning lottery ticket worth millions. To him and to me it was worth way more than that. Next thing I heard just as I had managed to grab the sticker safely was yet more screams from the children and I turned to see their shocked faces as their baby brother’s buggy rolled down the slope of the car park with him still in it. The little mite seemed quite oblivious to the fact nobody was pushing him. I screamed even louder as everything seemed to spin into slow motion. In my haste to scramble after what was effectively a penny sticker I had forgotten to put the brake on a very precious 9 month old baby’s buggy. Baby in runaway buggy was now rapidly gaining speed across the carpark veering towards a parked car.. Jesus Christ on a bike is the polite version of the words going through my head (ok I admit they came out my mouth loudly in front of children)….
By the sheer grace of God one of the other parents saw him rolling and was able to do what can only be described as a superhuman very ungraceful like mum-style leap crossed with a long jump towards him stopping the buggy in its tracks at the bottom of the slope. She was actually very understanding about it especially seeing how upset I was. Little baby brother was of course totally unharmed and actually happy as Larry at his little joyride. Me, I looked like I had been dragged through a bush backwards and was still missing a flipflop! As I caught up on my breath and pulled myself back together making sure all of the children were calming down and tears had been wiped from their faces I felt so thoroughly ashamed of myself.
So from a truly amazing afternoon to a very definite #fosteringcatastrophe. That day even though it left me feeling like the worst foster carer ever it also remains one of the best days of my life watching a little boy who had come to me neglected, filthy with no confidence and no life skills learn that he too could be a WINNER in life. He and his siblings stayed with me another few months before they were adopted. During that long summer holiday that we spent together he never stopped running everywhere he went. He RAN because he could, because he finally believed in himself and because ultimately he knew he was good at it.
Throughout my faults and imperfections as a foster carer I helped one little boy find his something to be good at and that makes me incredibly proud. Every child deserves to be good at something don’t you think?