FosterWiki Opinion Piece

Better fostering homes are built on love, but that’s not all

Better fostering homes

Better fostering homes are built on love, but that’s not all

They are also built on skills, qualifications, experience, trauma-informed care, professionalism and real life.

FosterWiki’s Ambassador, Carolyn Moody MBE, shows us how permanence and family can extend into adulthood Fostering always felt like a part of me, from way back in my childhood.

My best friend’s experience living in a children’s home in the 70s left a lasting impression—one of complete sadness. As she shared her stories, the profound challenges faced by children in institutional care then became evident. This personal connection fuelled my commitment to fostering and advocating for improved conditions, inspired by a first-hand understanding of the hardships faced by these vulnerable children.

It wasn’t until our children were older because of our life commitments that we could actually be in a position to foster children, and we took the first step into fostering in 2002. We can still recall that day, making that call, full of excitement to begin this heartfelt journey.

Throughout the first decade, I received nurturing, training and support, and I am immensely appreciative of the solid foundation and sense of belonging it provided. It is sad to know that this sense of belonging is not as evident today.

At 14, my youngest son played a crucial role in every step of our journey. He had worries – what his friends might think, what it would be like in sharing his mum and dad, our family, with a stranger, his concerns extended to the potential difficulties in navigating certain behaviours.

Despite these challenges, his active involvement enriched our family’s experience, fostering a deeper understanding and inclusivity.

Before we started fostering, nobody truly grasped the actual role of a foster carer—many assumed it was just like regular parenting. Over the years, as we delved into fostering, it surprised them, revealing a deeper and more nuanced journey than they initially perceived.

Some years later ensuring the well-being of a child staying with us long-term through permanency, became a shared commitment within our extended family. We all came to understand the crucial role of continuous support, emphasising the significance of including them and everyone in every birthday, Christmas, and every celebration.

These actions, often underestimated, played a vital role in creating a nurturing environment for our foster child who couldn’t return home.

Navigating the early years of fostering posed unique challenges, particularly given the stark differences between fostering rules and conventional parenting norms. The grandchildren found these rules perplexing, and at times, my parents, grandparents and friends unintentionally undermined my efforts, as they struggled to comprehend the complexities of dealing with the behaviour and trauma that these children had experienced. It was a learning curve for all involved, demanding patience, understanding, and a collective effort to create a supportive environment.

Children passed through our home, each carrying a sad unique story. While some moved on, many chose to stay in touch still today. One particular child became fully immersed in our family fabric. Then, unexpectedly, another child arrived as an emergency, and he, too, became a lasting presence. Following him, yet another child joined our family. Now, I found myself with three boys unrelated, unplanned yet each thoroughly immersed in our family dynamics.

They seamlessly became an integral part of everything we did, forging connections that surpassed the initial circumstances. As each child neared the transition phase, sadly the support they encountered was consistently unpredictable, there was a lack of well-defined plans, and everything was left to the last minute rendering it an exceptionally stressful period for these young people.

Each time a clear transition plan was lacking, I observed the foster children struggling with low moods and facing the uncertainty of an undefined future, compounded by the frequent changes of social workers.

So, reflecting on our journey, it becomes clear why I am passionate about planning transitions early, and why I campaign for children, foster carers and care leavers, —it’s incredibly important the absence of a clear plan, complaints made, and advocacy needed – all heightened the uncertainty!

Equally important is the support from the supervising/supporting social worker in holding others in the team accountable. This collaborative effort from the team around the child is crucial for ensuring the well-being of foster carers and, most importantly, the children they care for.

It is paramount that a system of accountability is established, one that safeguards the fostering process and contributes to a more effective and supportive environment for everyone involved.

For us, the plan was always to continue to care, and the decision to shift our focus towards supporting adults through Shared Lives was not made lightly. Many challenges emerged during the planning phase, where delays in communication added an additional layer of difficulty.

Recognising that offering Shared Lives support meant closing the door to fostering more children, we faced the reality that our home had reached its capacity. This marked a poignant and challenging moment as fostering had been our way of life for years.

Being part of FosterWiki has empowered me to share experiences and insights, contributing to a collective knowledge base. Through this platform, I advocate for improvements in the foster care system, amplifying voices, and addressing challenges, in a supportive community.

As we continue caring and supporting, I hope that sharing our story sheds light on the challenges of transition and emphasises the importance of a well-organised and supportive process for every child in care. Furthermore, I aim to highlight that meaningful relationships are fundamental to a child’s well-being, nurturing a sense of security, belonging, and a brighter future.

As I continue in 2024 my goal is to inspire positive changes and promote a more understanding and supportive environment for everyone in the foster care community.