Gill and Richard are foster carers for three teenage girls. They live in Nottingham, Gill works full time and Richard is retired, making him the primary carer.
What made you decide to foster a child?
Richard: We have a big old house with lots of space. I’m a retired Police Officer and the main carer which is unusual. I have loads of experience working with victims of child abuse and was trained to interview children who had been abused so I felt that I had many skills with young people that weren’t being used.
Gill: Materially we had so much compared to these young people and it felt right that we should put something back into the community. It was an opportunity for us to make a real difference – little did we know how much difference it would make to us and how much more we’d get out of it than we expected.
Is there a reason why you chose to foster for Nottingham City Council?
Gill: Morally we felt it was a better option, not necessarily the best paid option but for us it was about making the difference to the children’s lives not just about the money. The support we get is good which was important in our choice and we do feel part of a wider fostering family.
What was the process like?
Gill: It’s a two-stage process really; an initial assessment is done to assess the home and our suitability as foster carers. If that all works out OK, the formal process is started. It was at this stage we were assigned our own social worker who worked with us throughout the recruitment process. Our social worker was called Dawn – she was lovely. She answered our questions honestly, was reassuring but did talk to us about the potential ups and downs we would face along the way.
Gill: We did have a couple of wobbles along the way and right towards the end of the process I told our social worker I felt a little scared at the prospect – she said that was normal and that she would be more concerned if we didn’t have some reservations – it showed we were going into it with our eyes wide open and were realistic about some of the challenges we might face.
Richard: The social worker compiles a report about you and you get to see it before it goes to the fostering panel for approval. You attend the fostering panel with your social worker, for some people this can appear a little intimidating but the panel were all very nice. They asked lots of questions and then they consider your application. You usually find out the same day if you have been approved.
How long was the process?
Richard: We went to an initial information meeting where we had an opportunity to talk to social workers and existing foster carers about their experiences. It took about 9 months from the start to the end of the process however it’s a lot quicker now and it takes about 6 months.
Gill: As you’d expect, Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) checks are undertaken, and we had to provide some financial information. I think this was the bit that felt the most intrusive, but I think it is important that the local authority does these checks as they need to know you can provide a stable support to the young people in your care – both financially and emotionally.
Gill: Other than that I don’t think it’s an intrusive process at all, the opposite really, it was helpful and supportive. Once you are approved you are assigned a supervising social worker, who is there to support you as foster carers. Each child has their own separate social worker to support them as a child in care.
I have a family already, how will the foster child fit in with them?
Gill: We didn’t have any children of our own living at home but Richard has a grown up daughter who has her own place. She lives on her own and tends to do the respite care for us when we go on holiday. All three of our the girls really love her.
What impact does fostering have on your life / family?
Gill: It’s a much bigger impact than we probably thought and mostly for the better. We foster three teenage girls and they keep us young! The three girls aren’t related but they behave like any other siblings would. The house is noisier and a lot more untidy; my friends find this quite funny as I was always a bit of a neat freak before we had the girls!
Gill: When you go to the school and they tell you about the positive impact you are having on the girls, that’s a real high, however it’s not always easy.
Richard: We just have to remember that they are still children and deep down they are often quite insecure; sometimes that manifests in rebellious behaviour whilst other children are withdrawn. One of the biggest battles we have is around telling the truth – their learned behaviours are often lying to keep themselves safe – these are hard habits to break and can be frustrating.
Richard: A common theme is that they want to sleep with lights on because for many of them that’s when they have been at their most vulnerable. The best feeling is when they start to turn the lights out themselves, that’s when you know they feel safe.
What happens if things don’t work out with a placement?
Gill: If a placement isn’t working out it’s not in anyone’s best interests for it to carry on because it can be damaging for the young person, other foster children on placement, the foster carers and wider family members. If a placement is to end, this is usually planned and is designed to cause the least upset to the young person and you as foster carers. An alternative placement will be found for the young person. A request to end the placement might come from the young person or from the carers. However in some instances placements have to come to an end quite quickly.
Richard: We have had one placement where it didn’t work out. Whilst it felt very sad and we felt as if we had failed we did recognise that it was in everyone’s best interests, not least for our other foster children.
If you’d like to find out more about becoming a foster carer for Nottingham City Council, you can speak to one of our dedicated and friendly team on 0115 876 3335 or by email email@example.com
Thank you for taking the time to read our foster carers real life stories, we hope you too will be inspired to start your fostering journey with us soon.