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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

Fostering News: April

Fostering News – February 2019

GLF round up of news October

A moment in time

What does a moment in time mean to most of us? It may mean a person’s whole life time or it may mean precisely what you see in a photograph. The picture looks like a mother and son enjoying a day out at the seaside.  In fact what you see is a foster mother and her foster son doing exactly that.  For my lad every day is a moment in time, every day is not knowing if this will be his forever family, every day is deciding who he can trust to keep him safe.

This is the journey that my husband and I started with him nearly 3 yrs ago.  When someone says to us ‘I admire you for doing what you’re doing, they are damaged children, I don’t know if I could do it’. I have to remind them that it was an adult that damaged these children and it is adults that need to help them heal.  We don’t need admiration, all we want is for the children who come into our lives to have the same opportunities as everyone else.

We decided to foster about 5 years ago, we started our journey with an interview in our home. Then we attended a skills to foster course and over those three days we got a better insight into the life of foster carers and the children that come into the care system.  Once we decided that this was what we wanted we went through a 6 month assessment with our assessor and sat in front of a panel of about 15 people awaiting our fate.  I have to say I burst into tears when they said yes, the build-up of emotions was overwhelming.

Our lad was our 2nd placement, he was with us for 2 weeks respite but sadly was not able to return to his previous carer.  After 8 weeks with us the council wanted to move him, he was distraught as he had attached to us and us to him.  In the end with the help of an advocate the council gave in and let him stay.

So almost 3 years on we are a family.  Every day has it challenges but we work together to make sure that he feels safe and secure and that every moment in time counts.

I am happy to talk to anyone who is thinking about becoming a foster carer.  It really is a life changing experience.

Irene is a foster carer with GLF.

To find out how you can start your journey download our guide

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.

Daily recordings, a must!

I think I was definitely luckier than most when I entered the world of fostering!

I have mentioned before in previous blogs that my parents were foster carers for many years, and only retired recently after having fostered for over 27 years!  Through my life as a ‘foster sister’ I gained a wealth of experience which made the transition of becoming a foster carer so much easier!

Becoming a real life foster carer was still a daunting place though, I can tell you!  I often think perhaps the only part that wasn’t daunting was the children themselves!

One of MANY things I really felt nervous about was the daily logs.  I had come from a world where mostly the only writing I did was my daily facebook status or writing out whatsapp messages such as ‘hey how r u? ‘  or ‘u gonna be out this wkend?’  Not so helpful when you have to write out daily logs ummm (as the name suggests) EVERY day!!!

Not only was I worried about how to write but also WHAT TO SAY?   Surely people i.e your supervisor or your child’s social worker don’t want to know what the children ate for breakfast, said to you about the bloody Tellytubbies,  or even that they fell out their new posh glam buggy because you actually put the wheels on back to front!

Well actually YES they might!

Here we have one of my early daily logs…

Thursday

B is up as usual before I awake and wakes me up with  calling and singing.  B has a bath and breakfast. We go for a walk in the park with the dogs. We go for a picnic in the park and B has a fantastic time running around with the big children and eating the picnic.  Several times tries to take things from other children, a toy, a scooter, a lollipop and gets very angry when is asked to to give it back.  B enjoys being with Tanya the most who is 5 and follows Tanya everywhere, even when its time for Tanya to go home she tries to go with her. After the picnic, we go home and a new buggy has arrived.   I build the buggy and we go to the park in it! B is very excited about it.  20 mins into the walk I park it next to a flower bed and walk 5 steps to the bin and as I walk back the whole buggy topples over with B in it and falls into the flower bed.  B screams and cries and several people come to help.  B is ok and not seriously hurt but we are both upset. When Scott comes home later he finds I have screwed the wheels on back to front and corrects it and he thinks this is why it toppled.  B goes to sleep within seconds tonight I think due to the busy day she has had!

Seriously!!!  Only I could screw a wheel on back to front!!  How is that even possible it’s a wheel for god’s sake!

Joking aside sometimes it can be easy to forget that our daily logs have huge importance in our role as foster carers.  One very important role of daily logs can be helping to document things like accidents!  In my log above, I explain everything about the buggy accident which can if needed be used word for word to explain to any concerned parents or social workers as to why this child may have been hurt!

There are so many important reasons for our daily logs!  Another one which I was unfortunate enough to have first hand experience of, is many of our foster children are the subject of ongoing court cases!  Our daily logs can provide a really huge insight into these children’s lives!  The reality is that people who HAVE never, and ARE never, likely to meet your foster children, (such as court judges or panels) are often given the task of making life changing decisions about their futures!

For me as a foster carer that horrible moment of realisation dawned on me soon after the arrival of two children who had been severely neglected by their parents! Within a month they were placed up for adoption!  However, little was I prepared to find out that actually the plans were for the children to be separated and to go to two different adoptive families!

Court cases were being prepared and the children’s social workers matter of factly informed us that the children should be adopted separately for their own good!

Aged just 4 and 5, how was it even possible for someone to come to this decision?  Let alone in such a short space of time?

I felt so angry that this was even happening to these innocent little ones and that in this modern day it was possible to split two, ending one that way and the other a different way!

” The reality hit me that this fight was ours and that actually my daily logs were now valuable ammunition!”

Tuesday

….they must stay together.  Sometimes if Ryan goes shy in front of new people he will whisper what he wants to say to Rose and Rose will say it out loud for him!    Also vice versa if Rose is troubled and withdrawn about something as she sometimes gets after School, Ryan will answer questions for her!  For example, if I ask Rose “are you hurt”?  Or “Rose has someone pushed you?’  Ryan will also ask her these questions and will even answer for her when she is silent by saying things like ‘I didn’t see anyone push her Amee’ or ‘I think she has a tummy ache Amee.’   They really are so sweet to each other and just love playing together constantly! Rose has changed so much in such a short space of time and she now is very caring to Ryan without the domineering almost menacing way that she used to be towards him saying things like ‘your’re for it now’ or ‘look what you done now’.

He loves to be encouraged by Rose and dotes on her.

Sunday weekly summary

She has changed so much but maybe she feels more settled now.  Her true personality shines through and actually Rose is a very funny, quite cheeky girl with a huge sense of humour.  This week I have really noticed that Rose has changed towards Ryan and is now very supportive and encouraging to him.  She is always saying ‘oh well done Ryan’  ‘oh you are good’.   Or when he runs she shouts ‘Don’t stop Ryan keep going’ which is quite funny to hear because she has copied that from me. Rose now also reassures Ryan if he has an accident!  For example, if he spills something once she would have said ‘you’re for it now’or something quite mean but now she will say to him ‘Ryan just tell Amee and Amee will mop it up don’t worry Ryan don’t worry’.  Another example is when he is eating a sandwich she will say ‘Ryan don’t forget if you want another one just let Amee know’ and she repeats it several times to him in a caring fashion!

 It wasn’t just me that felt the full impact of such horrible news. The School that the children attended were very distressed to hear the news that the plan was to separate the children!

Tuesday

Parents evening:  When we got to Rose’s teacher’s table the lady broke down crying it was awful, poor woman!  She apologised for crying and I comforted her and she said Rose had a special place in her heart!   Then she said that Rose is SO well behaved and SO caring.   She also said Rose had no recognition of numbers which is true as she seems unable to write them. When I’ve done homework with Rose she needs me to write the number down and then she copies it. We then went around Rose’s classroom and spoke with her other teacher Mr W.

Rose enjoyed showing me and her brother her books and then told me off for touching a wall display as she said Mrs. V said nobody is allowed to touch the wall displays!

And so just like that you can find yourself thrown into a world of uncertainty and fighting to protect children you have known only a short time yet have already grown to love!   Innocent children who trust you and look to you for comfort and care.  Children who think you have their back no matter what! How can you not do everything in your power to help them?  All of a sudden words especially the written ones of daily logs become a very powerful thing.

We fought long and hard for these 2 children! The social workers refused to believe that they should stay together!  Together with their school and their court guardian and the support of our GLF supervisor we managed to get the judge to see the truth that these two little ones belonged together.  The judge was given my daily logs to read before making a decision! One day another judge may be given yours!

Sadly, for many foster children they are not so lucky and day in day out children in the care system are separated from their siblings!

Don’t be afraid to disagree, don’t be afraid to write it down and don’t be afraid to fight as hard as you can.  You may be all they have!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Men Who Foster

Hello, my name is Asrat, I’m a male foster carer, when I became a carer I told my youngest brother about it and he said to me, when he thinks of fostering, older women or elderly retired couple come to his mind but he never thought younger single men would be interested or involved.

I think these sorts of views are expressed because it’s mistakenly believed that women are best suited to handle the challenges of fostering and naturally more caring than men. I believe men are equally capable of handling challenges and can be caring as well.

As a male foster carer since 2013 I have had challenging times which I have managed well and have also been providing very good care to my young person in care.

“Rewards and challenges are part and parcel of fostering”

I used to work at my local council before I became a foster carer. That is where I got involved with the council’s fostering office working with unaccompanied asylum seekers from different parts of the world. I came to know about fostering there and had a chance to work with some social workers. It was fulfilling and satisfying being able to help others. I decided to be a full time foster carer and opened my doors to a child to give him a warm and friendly home. Fostering is rewarding when I see the positive differences I made in a child’s life after he had stayed with me.  And it can also be challenging when a child, for different reasons doesn’t want to engage with me and refuses to be helped.

“My supervising social worker is a phone call away for any query I may have.”

Rewards and challenges are part and parcel of fostering. Fostering in my opinion is a noble profession because it involves shaping a child’s life into becoming a productive and successful citizen. It requires resilience and lots of patience. Thankfully I have GLF’s full support whenever I need it. I have been getting relevant training and my supervising social worker is a phone call away for any query I may have.

All in all, my fostering journey since 2013 has taught me some valuable lessons. I have learned to be more patient and understanding.  If there are any men out there wondering about fostering, I encourage you to consider it seriously, you will not be disappointed.

Is fostering the poor relation of adoption?

Back in Spring 2016, the then education secretary Nicky Morgan caused quite an upset when she said: “We cannot stand by while children spend months in care waiting for their new family, when loving parents are available.”

 

Yet of those children in care, 75 per cent are being actively fostered. Unsurprisingly representatives of those hard working foster families hit back in an article in The Guardian to say: ‘children in foster care are not “waiting” for a loving family: they are in one.’

 

Fostering doesn’t operate in the same way as adoption but from our experience it is very deeply valued by all involved.

 

For anyone entering fostering there is a clear difference they must recognise – foster carers never have parental responsibility for the children they care for, no matter how long they look after him or her. Plus the local authority will always maintain some involvement in the child’s life which places expectations on the fosterer to attend certain meetings and undertake other administrative chores.

 

Although some people who enquire about fostering through GLF have found that a compromise they weren’t able to accept, we see these differences as a very positive thing. It means that fostering provides an alternative care option that may much better suit the child involved.

 

We at GLF find foster homes for all types of children. Some can be very temporary offering a child a home while their parent is ill or in hospital and unable to look after a much loved and wanted child.

 

For those children that aren’t able to live at home on a long-term basis, fostering offers a clear way for them to still maintain a link with their biological parents and families.

 

Ally, a 45-year-old woman who has been fostering through us for a decade, explains it perfectly: ‘I’ve been looking after Adam now for five years and I don’t think that is going to end any time soon. Although he sometimes has a difficult relationship with his birth mum he hold me recently that he is glad he is still part of her life in some way as it means he still knows the family he comes from.

 

‘I know that my job is to keep him safe and offer him care and stability. Neither Tom or I have ever felt the need to bring up adoption – he knows he is loved by me even if I am ‘just’ his foster Mum.’