I Know I’ve Made a Real Difference
“I know I’ve made a real difference – by offering a safe space where traumatised children can thrive” (Carolyn Moody MBE)
In November 2022 my husband and I attended Windsor castle as Foster Carers where we were presented with our decorations at a royal investiture ceremony.
We were so excited that we met William the Prince of Wales, he oozed warmth, and he made us feel so at ease while discussing foster care.
It struck me how knowledgeable he was when he described the cliff edge of care that so many young adults face and assured us that this was on his radar.
We know he is passionate about homelessness, mental health and helping young people in care who fail or slip through the cracks and is striving to make a difference.
To know that people at the top who are also passionate about what is happening in society can help influence change, the fact that Prince William is taking an interest in children and their growth as adults is very encouraging. To receive an MBE for foster care was very special to us and something we will always remember. How wonderful that foster carers are being recognised for the important work they do, and the difference they make every day.
It is wonderful as we continue to support but now as young adults continuing their journey supported by us through Shared Lives. I feel so much joy to see each of them achieve, watch them grow from children into young men and know I have been instrumental in this alongside my husband, my family and close friends whose support has been immense and crucial in helping to achieve this.
How far they have come from their difficult and traumatic life events. We have been able to share our lives together and when they tell us they have a family who cares, always includes them and they know we will always champion them, this is the icing on the cake.
I can’t put into words how rewarding it is to be a foster carer, the experience, you are part of something great. Giving warmth, advocating and championing this does enrich their lives. It is so important to me to feel respected, valued and heard by everyone as I have to build good working relationships.
Think of me as a jigsaw puzzle, I can be that missing piece as I am part of the team around the child. I continually work alongside policy and procedures giving a child the chance of a family experience so they can have a settled and happy childhood, and the ultimate goal for me is that children become successful adults.
Always remember that they are not our children as perhaps one day children may return home, sometimes they can’t and will go to kinship care or for adoption.
When children leave it is not easy emotionally and it can be heart-wrenching at times when it comes to saying goodbye, but we manage this because a good ending for the child is very important.
Sometimes I need a reminder to look after my own mental health, life is busy and this can emotionally take its toll and creep up on you when you least expect it. I have to be nurturing that’s a major part but equally be professional in my role, this can be tricky at first in finding that balance but it does come.
I know I have made a real difference by offering a safe space where children can thrive. When children come to live in our home, I never really know how long they will stay, but they do become part of our family and everyone embraces this. It’s also heart-breaking to know children have suffered and are facing trauma from neglect abuse and loss and it doesn’t get any easier the longer you foster, but you do find ways to manage this. By creating a safe place, building healthy relationships and being present makes such a difference to them.
I think one important piece of advice to a new foster carer would be to remember that children will come with trauma, it takes time, a lot of time, and you need to be prepared for this including some unwanted and even unusual behaviours. Something I learned along the way is until a child gains trust with their foster carer, it is only then that you can begin to work with them note there is no time limit for this because every child is an individual, as are their experiences.
I have to say the children I have fostered are all incredible in how they managed such unpredictability, I have seen the reality first-hand, it’s heart-breaking for them to leave everything familiar behind and have it live with strangers, and everything changes for them.
The children I work with have already faced challenges at home and we must remember being taken into foster care can exacerbate the situation alongside sometimes being treated unfairly and faced with prejudice out in the community.
When I started fostering it was mainly with teenagers short-term. I had many young people staying with us over different periods of time, and even though I had some training back then nothing prepared me for the reality of our first foster child. I will always remember how excited we both felt waiting for a child, in planning and preparing and the 2022 John Lewis Christmas advert reminded me of that excitement and feeling somewhat nervous when welcoming a child into our home.
Remembering my first foster child, the disappointment and worry when after five days with us, running away, eventually returning, only to run away again, time after time, until eventually, they settled. I remember feeling exhausted, it took over a year before this child felt safe but despite this, I didn’t give up, although at times I wanted to but, it was my family who was crucial in support and our fostering support social worker then who was worth her weight in gold.
I have worked with many parents who have had poor life experiences themselves and without the additional help of appropriate and effective support, it is difficult.
One of the hardest challenges when working with parents is being able to be non-judgemental, we must though as children need to see us getting along with their parents, it helps me to remember that not all parents have sexually or physically abused their children, but all have been neglected.
I always live in hope that eventually parents get the help and support they need and children return home, we are just caretakers of these beautiful souls, but it doesn’t mean we can’t invest in them, work with and nurture children because it’s important we do. We care for children who chose to call us mum and dad, and that’s lovely, that is their choice, and a real honour.
It’s not ok for adverts to recruit foster carers by simplifying the role, spare room, and big heart anyone can do it, this message alone is not helpful, it is misleading because the general public doesn’t fully understand what foster carers actually do.
To me being Foster Carer means I am doing more than a parenting role, the term Foster Parent takes that away. I am a professional foster carer continually gaining knowledge and experience in my fostering practice. There is no other job like a full-time foster carer, this role has developed over time and the expectations are huge.
I became a FosterWiki Ambassador because it fits with my values. In any job, you need to know what your job really entails and with the right information from day one people will be prepared so much better than I was back then. Retention, recruitment and the stability of the child are all important. I recommend you read FosterWiki it has a wealth of information and Top Tips from foster carers.
Would I recommend fostering YES, there are issues within children’s social care that need to be fixed, parts are broken, it does make caring more challenging and I have been unpopular at times, but I will continue to hold children’s social services to account on their policies and procedures and I have never given up caring because children need us to support and champion them.
I hope that in 2023 we see real change; we need an outstanding service for everyone.