In July 2019, Keren and her husband became parent and child carers and have since had a mixture of placements. Some come for a day and others for long periods. “Becoming a foster carer is a steep learning curve but we’ve enjoyed it.” She says, “It’s fair to say, we’ve had a few dips along the way. I used to be a secondary school teacher for many years and my husband continues to teach today. We have four children aged five, seven, 10 and 12.”
What made you become foster carers?
“I always hoped to foster at some point in my life, but for us it was all about timings. I wanted to have my own children first and wait until they were a bit older. When our youngest started school, that’s when we made our first step. It took about a year from our initial home visit until being approved and in that time, we had a loft conversion. As a secondary school teacher, I’m used to working with young people. I love helping people and so I went in quite open-minded. We’re open to looking after teenagers and asylum seekers too.”
How do your own children feel about fostering?
“Our children have got on really well with those we look after as foster carers. They’re very inclusive, welcoming and resilient. We’ve always had lodgers, and still do today, so they’re used to having people around. My husband and I wanted to teach our children to care for others when you can, so when we first mentioned about becoming foster carers, everyone in the family was on board. We strongly believe they’ve learnt a lot from being in a fostering family. Each time we get a new placement, our children get excited to see who will be joining our family next – they love the babies.
It’s important for us to understand the circumstances of the parent and child coming to us so we can try to prepare. When we first started, we were told that it’s very rare that the father comes into care with his baby, as often it’s usually the mother and her baby. It was interesting for us because our first two placements were both dads. They were both really good – one stayed for two weeks and the second stayed for four months and we helped move him on to his next home.” says Keren.
Grace, 12 years old, is Keren’s eldest daughter says, “I enjoy being able to have some responsibility to look after the baby and I just love babies generally. We’ve looked after five babies so far. There was one baby called William* and he came to us when he was only five months. I feel that is one of the best ages to look after a baby because they’re just learning to do things and figure stuff out and they make me laugh. Everyone has a different way of looking after young children but my advice to new foster carers is make sure the babies and children are always healthy and safe – make sure they are in the right hands. I’m very proud to be in a family that fosters. When people at school ask me what my mum’s job is, I’m really happy to answer that. My friends think it’s so cool!”
Why did you decide to foster with Hampshire County Council?
“To me, it felt ethical to choose to foster with a local authority. I have friends who have worked for Hampshire County Council and others who adopted through them and really enjoyed it.”
How did you find the assessment process?
“The man who did our assessment was lovely. It almost felt like therapy in a way because you open up so much. He would ask us about our lives and emphasise that what has happened previously in our lives has shaped us as people as well as explain how each of those things can make us better carers. He was very insightful and very easy to talk to. There were many visits throughout our assessment, but we didn’t dread them at all. It was tricky organising childcare on the Saturday training days but otherwise training was good, and we enjoyed going.”
Do you feel supported as a foster carer?
“Our social worker is absolutely brilliant. She’s amazing, supportive and understanding. She knows what we can manage and what we can’t. She’s a great advocate and we depend on her a lot. Our social worker is really passionate about improving the service for Parent and Child foster carers. You become a foster carer wanting to see positive outcomes and do the best you possibly can, help them on their journey and give them guidance. You have to go into fostering with that mentality. As a Parent and Child foster carer, we can find it hard to work with children’s social worker because you want to help the parent and child stay together as a family, which doesn’t always work out.
As a family, we decided we wouldn’t take any parent and child placements on lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis, because we didn’t think it would be fair on everyone. However, we decided we could take a baby. A couple of weeks into lockdown we had a call and next thing you know; we’re taking home a three-hour old baby. It’s actually a really lovely time to have a new-born in the house because everyone in the home is around, they can all help, and they can enjoy her.”
How do you say goodbye?
“Sometimes it’s quite hard to say goodbye because you’ve created this bond with them, but our children are always excited about who’s coming next. Usually placements are quite short term, about two to three months, though we had one placement that went on much longer. The dad knew when he was going, and the baby was getting an SGO (Special Guardianship Order) so we were all able to prepare for that. The transition period was nice for us a family because there was two-weeks where we would still look after the baby for a few days and then he would spend time with the new guardians. It was good because we could get used to him not being here. It also meant we got to know who the baby was going to, and they were a lovely family who were delighted to have him.”
Do you have any memorable stories?
“We had another father and baby who stayed with us for 14 days, and it was always going to be just 14 days. It felt like they became part of our family very quickly – I would have loved for them both to have stayed longer. The father was a chef and from a very different social background compared to our family. It was a real eye-opener but in a good way. He was so generous with his time and would teach everyone how to cook in the kitchen, including our children. Towards the end of their time with us, he told me that he was smoking half of what he’d usually smoke since being with us, because he didn’t feel stressed here. It was amazing to hear. It was also very heart-warming when he said that he hoped he could build a family like ours in the future. Which to us, just confirms that we did the right thing to become foster carers.”
Start your fostering journey with us today. Hampshire County Council has an outstanding Ofsted rating, reflecting all the work that takes place to help children reach their potential. We offer good support, fee allowances and extras for holiday, birthdays and Christmas. If you, or someone you know has the potential to start fostering please get in touch with Fostering Hampshire Children today - call 01489 587052 or visit www.hants.gov.uk/fostering
*name has been changed