Foster Carer Case Study, June, December 2023

Dec 15 2023

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Hello, please introduce yourself

June, Oakley (Basingstoke), and I’ve been a foster carer for thirty years.

Why did you start fostering?

I wanted to help children. I used to get children from court who were going into prisons that had no parents or any supportive guardians. So, I used to support them. All they needed was love and guidance. I’ve got a lot of love to give. I had my daughter and I realised quickly there were lots of children out there who needed this love too. So, I gravitated to fostering.

Most memorable moment as a foster carer?

I’ve fostered so many it’s so difficult to pick just one!

I‘ve fostered 8 times

I’ve had so many long-term. I’m so proud I’ve managed to give them stability, life skills, and a future. They still see me as their ‘mum’ even now as care leavers. They are all well-rounded – some own their own businesses.

They all come to me and meet my new foster child and they are all brilliant too. In a supporting capacity, they help me to reassure my foster children. The new sights and smells for a foster child can be scary and they are all brilliant in helping show that they are in a safe space.

They support me because I support them.

Just seeing these kids grow in their education, stature, their life – because they’ve got someone who can fight for them and help them, they grow with that belief. With that self-belief – they flourish.

One is hoping to go to university – and I feel I helped them help themselves to do it. I’m proud.

Another has grown their school attendance from 75% to 100%. They are now so driven to do well in school because their future is brighter.

I’ve also fostered children with long-term learning difficulties too, one had emotional and behavioural difficulties. I’ve adapted my foster care of these children as they need it.

What do you think is the biggest misconception?

I think the myth is that when hear about bad fostering experiences it can sour things. This is so rare, and you don’t hear enough about the amazing experiences they deliver nearly every time. Yes, it can be scary and a little uncertain but it’s really rewarding.

When meeting a child, you pick the ways you want to support that child – you are not going to change everything about them – which isn’t right anyway. But you can make quick wins in turn of transforming their life. It’s taking the time to understand their worries and concerns (not yours!) and work WITH them to help them.

I once went out with a foster child for a meal, and they didn’t know etiquette when sitting for a meal. It is communication and taking a teaching role, working with him, helping him, and teaching them everyday life skills and expectations – you can just make a small difference in their life.

Another had quite a slim palette of food they would eat – but with patience, compassion, and love I worked with them to expand their nutrition – giving them new sensory experiences to help them grow and nourish them physically and mentally.

It’s not a job – this is a vocation. You need to be dedicated, you need compassion, love, patience – these qualities. It’s not something you can just turn up and do like a robot. It’s so critical; you always need to go above and beyond. This is a child’s life; you need to help them every day and you must always find a way to do that even if the child sometimes struggles to see it.

What is your biggest challenge to foster?

One of the biggest challenges is self-belief. I get nervous sometimes – am I doing this right, applying my training in the right way, I am being a positive figure for these children? Am I helping them? Do I need to change my everyday life in this way to help them? But the child is probably feeling this tenfold.

That won’t be everyone’s challenge, but I think it’s good to have this. If a child is a bit rebellious, I’m not going to give up – never give up – work with them. Keep opening doors don’t shut them. They want what everyone else has got. Love, security, knowing they are wanted. It’s just getting there.

What sort of activities do they do?

Foster children in my care become part of the family – extended family. We go to weddings, BBQs – everything. One of my children was just 4 years old when I started to foster children, she later got married and some of my foster children went to the wedding. They are my family – these foster children are her siblings.

My brother gets them all Xmas gifts and we celebrate things together – it’s amazing! Everyone gets treated the same way too.

What is the Hive and how was it helpful to you?

One of the reasons I moved to Hampshire was the HIVE! During COVID I was on my own, I couldn’t access any networks or support. Other people couldn’t see me as a wealth of knowledge either. It’s a great place to share information and receive information. It’s so important.

I’ve been in the Hive for a year.

The Hive was the reason I moved to Hampshire but also, I wanted to foster with my local community and authority. Every child I had has been local and wanted to keep children local to areas they are familiar with. It’s an extra stability I can offer – familiar sights and sounds of where they have been.

Top skills carer needs?

They need to be nurturing. They need to be adaptable. They need to be an advocate for their child – protect them and fight for them.

Understand that you are helping them to become resilient and all these things will help.

Also, be confident in teaching them life skills. How to pay the bills, fix things, and do simple skills in everyday life. It will transform them I promise.

Top tip for a foster carer?

Be open and transparent. Honest and loving – don’t fear attachment. Forming a bond is a step towards helping children.

You have your training and advice and good practice of course – but also don’t forget to use your human skills to form their connection.

Treat them as you would want your own family to be treated.

The child I have now at first thought I was strict and mean. But we laugh now – because that was before we saw the real version of each other.

Anything else?

I’m currently doing my skills level 3 to help me grow my skills as a foster carer too. My Hive Care Support Worker are supporting me to do this too and its great I can do this. It can be challenging to do but it’s going to help me both in my knowledge but also financially too.

In this climate, financial support is important, and this is going to help me to continue to provide the love I have for these children.

Allows the stories of a young couple, a retired teacher, and a couple whose son has just left home, as they embark on the very beginning of their fostering journeys. It inspires local residents to consider whether they too might be ready to take the very first steps to transforming the life of a child.

Councillor Edward Heron, the County Council’s Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services, said: “The three stories in this campaign showcase some of the scenarios that most often prompt people to come forward and foster with us. While all very different, what the individuals have in common is the space in their lives and in their hearts to offer kindness and care to a child who needs it most. We hope that this new campaign will encourage more people to ask themselves whether they might also be at the right stage in their lives to provide the warmth and stability so needed by a child waiting for their foster family. I would urge anyone looking to give something back to their local community, to get in touch with us and begin their own fostering journey this winter.”

Anyone aged over 21 and from all walks of life can become a foster carer. The only requirement is a spare room – and of course, plenty of patience, resilience, open-mindedness and positivity. There are many different types of arrangements available, from full-time fostering to more flexible options that fit around home and work-life commitments.

Individuals who choose to foster with Hampshire County Council will benefit from excellent training, and generous allowances for each child or young person in their care. As well as a dedicated social worker who is there to support them every step of the way, foster carers can also sign up to be part of the Hampshire Hive, a support network of local groups which effectively create an ‘extended family’ for foster carers and looked after children in communities across Hampshire.

To find out more about becoming a foster carer, visit the Hampshire County Council website and download an information pack, or call the fostering service on 01489 587052.