In praise of foster carers…

Why foster carers rock!

Foster family portait

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/omgimages

My career has been punctuated by encounters with people.

That’s the nature of social work, I guess.

Apart from some amazing teenagers, the group who’ve impacted me the most has been foster carers.

They never cease to astound me!

Why foster carers rock!…

Working with troubled young people can be a real challenge, as well as a delight. But most of us get to go home at the end of the working day.

Foster carers keep right on going. They work the night shift too. Every night.

It’s one thing to do your eight hours and then go home to rest and re-group. It’s quite another to have the client living in the back bedroom!

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Sharing life…

This is the bread and butter of good foster carers – they give more. In fact, they give themselves. They share their lives. Here’s how:

  • Home – this is a place where we feel most safe. It’s our space. Foster carers share this with other people’s children. Children who often haven’t had a decent home before…and who may not respect it. At least for a while. And in some cases…for years.
  • Patience – such children can be very demanding. Very challenging. It takes a special kind of person to expose their safe place to kids who may not value it – at least not yet. But in time most of them will. Till that happens, it takes bucketfuls of patience-day in and day out-to help them get there.
  • Family – this is usually the cause of children’s problems. In some way or another, family, care, nurturing has gone wrong. It takes guts and sacrifice from foster carers and kinship carers to expose their own family to a child’s learning process, which can often be prolonged and traumatic. This is, however, the greatest gift of all – a surrogate family.
  • Love – for some reason which still eludes me, professionals tend to shy away from this word. Love. But it’s my firm belief that many of the carers I’ve come across do more than offer board and lodge to a child. As we’ve said, they give their home, their lives and their family to troubled children. In short, they love them.

Final thought…

So next time you or I have had a bad day at the office or dealt with some difficult people, we should spare a thought for those whose working day started when the child got up this morning and won’t end till they go to bed tonight.

Spare a thought for foster carers – those most extra-ordinary people!

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What do you think?…

  • Are you a foster carer? Why do you do it? Please tell us one of your fostering stories in 100 words or less…
  • What advice would you give to the rest of us?

Please let me know your thoughts…   Join in the conversation – Leave a comment below or click here.

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Related previous posts:

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  © Jonny Matthew 2014

JOIN THE CONVERSATION AND ADD YOUR COMMENTS!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • anitanee

    Foster carers most definitely rock! Our daughter came to us aged 7.5. Her foster carer, who she’d lived with for four years, is wise, highly skilled, emotionally intelligent and works day and night with a commitment that I’ve not seen in very many people. She always puts her children (her own, and the children she cares for) first and she receives very little recognition but she keeps going. Her husband and daughters are similarly amazing. Without her, I’m not sure what situation our daughter would be in now – or us, as she guided us so sensitively through the journey of becoming parents to the little girl who’s life she made such a difference to. She knows who she is and I’ll be sending this link to her!

    • jonnymatthew

      Yep, that sounds exactly right to me, Anita. There must be so many similar stories out there. These folk really are life savers. They save lives by sharing their own. Can’t help but take my hat off to them! Thanks for commenting!

      • Jenny

        My mum is the foster carer that Anita is referring to and she is amazing! What she sacrifices for the children she fosters is amazing. I have been lucky to be around for every single child that has come through that front door,we each (me and my sisters) look after them,care for them,play with them and generally love them as if they were a member of our family! Anita is amazing too,she loves and adores her daughter Kirsty and has given her the stable family/home life that she needed! We are still in contact now which is amazing as I still think of “little Kirsty” as my sister!

        • anitanee

          Thanks Jenny :-). I also should have mentioned, we were lucky with our daughter’s foster carer – she is vastly experienced, others aren’t so, but the more support and training that
          Foster carers get (from people like the one we mention), the better the outcomes for children and youg people – and society. It’s such an important and valuable investment.

        • jonnymatthew

          How lovely to hear your perspective, Jenny – thanks for sharing it!

  • Donna Rowley

    I am a foster carer and this is lovely to read – especially at 22:58 when i’ve just go the kids to bed! Thanks for the boost! I work in a similar field (parenting) as my day job and i completely get what you say about leaving that at work at the end of the day – fostering isn’t like that. One of my former foster daughters was my bridesmaid and all children are welcomed into the family as a whole. it takes the entire extended family being on board to make it work. so to all those extended family members – you rock too!

    • jonnymatthew

      How lovely for you to have a former foster child be your bridesmaid. Another cracking story! You’re completely right about the extended family. There’s a cost and commitment from them too. Thanks Donna – I’m glad you got a boost!

  • Bev Parker

    Thanks jon. I’ve been a foster carer for the past 10 years & love my job. My kids have grown up with it & their experiences have made them very tolerant & understanding of peoples differences. My children would ask why someone would react the way they do before judging them as they recognise we all have different life experiences that affect how we behave. X

    • jonnymatthew

      Lovely Bev! Great to see how your own kids benefit from fostering. Kids can teach an awful lot about the way we view and treat others…

  • Karen

    I write this as my hubby and I are on holiday sitting outside our caravan and our foster children play cricket with the children next door. Some days are tough, especially when school phone to tell you your young person has set the fire alarm off at school as an April fools prank!!! Those days are soon forgotten as we watch them enjoying themselves, having fun, laughing and playing….makes my role as a foster carer very rewarding

    • jonnymatthew

      As you say, Karen, it’s important to savour the good days. Watching kids having the freedom and safety to enjoy just being kids, is the great reward! Well done!

  • Patsy Riley

    I am what is classed as a Kinship carer, I basically do the same job as a foster carer, but they are my Grandchildren who for one reason or another cannot live with their parents , So I and other Kinship carers do not get the recognition or the support from local Authorities that Foster carers get . We are constantly campaigning for recognition and financial help , we are the forgotten army of kinship carers, I hope that you might do an article on our plight , hears hoping thank you Patricia.riley1@tesco. net

    • jonnymatthew

      Great point, Patsy. I think this is an area that’s under-appreciated; even more so than foster care in general, as you rightly say. Do you guys belong to any supportive groups or organisations that specialise in kinship care? I’d like to learn more about it. I’d be very happy to write something on it, or to do so with you… Please let me know. Cheers, J.

      • Cheryl Elizabeth Steed

        Im also a kinship carer and gave everything up to look after my grandaughter, not much is heard about us, we are the forgotten ones, often left with little or no financial help or support, often dealing with complex situations and troubled children, ss cant wait to wipe there hands of us.
        Cheryl steed
        Steed177@googlemail.com

        • jonnymatthew

          Wow, thanks Deb, thanks Cheryl – there’s a whole load of stuff that I just hadn’t thought of before – I guess that’s half the problem with the system, too? I know foster carers often get less than good service, information and support, but you guys seem to have a whole load of other issues on top.

          It seems to me that it would be good to open up a dialogue – at least so that I can learn from you all and begin to get my head around the issues. We could then look to write something to further the cause. If this is of interest, please email me direct on mail@JonnyMatthew.com and I’ll open an email list for us.

          Please also send me details of Kinfest – sounds fab – and share the blog post with other carers you know…

          THANKS for sharing your stories! Cheers, Jonny.

          • Helen Taylor

            “I know foster carers often get less than good service, information and support” sometimes might be better used here, foster carers have their own social worker and we all know that can be variable, just as I am sure you encounter with your colleagues in the youth justice service? Kinship carers also have their own post approval social worker for support and it is recognised that their needs are different. There are those who apply for an SGO who have decided that they want a “normal family life” for the child without SW intervention and that is fine for some.

      • Deb Burns

        There’s a whole army of us out there jonny. We support each other because although we go through the same process to foster our kinship children as foster parents go through, there the similarity ends.. Very few of us are paid basic fostering allowance but absolutely no support plan once the kids are handed over! Its a disgrace.. Nobody would ever expect a foster parent to take on traumatized children with the needs they demand without training and guidance and neither would the children be left to struggle their way through their new alien world. They are just expected to ‘get on with it’.. If you are really interested to learn more please email Patsy and she will let you know where and when we are holding our annual ‘Kinfest’.. This year there will be 50 families and our kinship children. Now that’s no mean feat to say we receive zero support to even give our kinship foster children even a weekend away!! And as for respite… don’t get me started 🙂 Thanks for taking an interest and here’s hoping you make it to kinfest for a day and hopefully we can inspire you to write an article on us

    • Patsy Riley

      Thank you for you reply , yes we do have a support group ,Kinship FosterCarer group it is a closed group for obvious reasons we are also offiliated with Grandparents plus . com my husband and I along with another Lady have started a local support group , we would be more than happy to talk to you about Kinship care

  • Irene Douse

    Though I would agree in principle with your comment of family often being the cause of trouble I think that needs qualifying more to Immediate family. Often Extended family can be the solution to a happy and free life. Kinship Care is a wonderful thing . Offering the chance for a “normal” life while maintaining strong family ties where it is possible to do so. I will always applaud foster care the devotion of caring people to become “parents” to our troubled little ones b ut kinship care also needs a high degree of recognition. The unsung heroes who also have to cope with other family turning against them. We are all in this for the same reason the love and wellbeing of a child or two or three.

    • jonnymatthew

      You’re absolutely right, Irene. That was something I didn’t think about when writing (I will next time!). The challenge of caring for the children at the expense of wider family relationships must be particularly challenging – another one I hadn’t thought of – oh dear, this is a very steep learning curve 🙂

    • jonnymatthew

      Hi Irene – I’ve now edited the blog post to acknowledge the part of kinship carers a little (in the “Family” section). It doesn’t anywhere near do justice to the work of kinship carers, but I think your point was a good one and needed to be acknowledged in the lost itself. Thanks again!

  • jonnymatthew

    QUESTION: do you guys have a LinkedIn group or something similar that you are part of? Something specific to kinship care? I’ve done a quick search and only found something U.S.A. based for fostering in general, but nothing for kinship carers specifically. What do you think about this – it’s a great way to share ideas, articles, etc and there is also an “Inmail” facility where you can contact people privately if they are connected to you – just a thought…

    • Janellen Redington

      Hi Jonny, I am another Kinship carer, and yes we have a facebook group, a website, a twitter account, many local support groups, a Travelling Ted who is moving around the country raising awareness of kinship care, there is a lot going on, but not enough people are aware of what we ‘have to go through’ in order to provide a safe home and future for our kinship children. Here are some links
      Kind regards
      Janellen Redington

      Proud to be part of
      http://www.kinshipcarers.co.uk

      Please follow Kristopher the Kinship Ted on his travels around the UK

      Twitter @kinshipted

      Facebook
      https://www.facebook.com/kinshipteddy

      • jonnymatthew

        Brilliant – thanks Janellen!

    • Karen Steele

      Are you UK or US based?

      • jonnymatthew

        I’m a Yorkshireman based in Cardiff, Karen :-). J.

        • Karen Steele

          Here’s some stuff to check out then 🙂

          http://www.kinshipcarers.co.uk

          On Twitter:-
          @KinshipTed
          @Kinfest
          @KinshipCarers
          And me 🙂 @Steeley_Kaz

          On Facebook:-
          – Raising Awareness of Kinship Care
          – Kinfest
          – Travelling Ted
          – Grandparent, Sibling and Kinship Carers
          (All the above are FB pages)

        • Karen Steele

          I think there is a LinkedIn group for Kinship Care – if I can get into my LinkedIn account I will try and post a link for you.

    • Karen Steele
      • jonnymatthew

        Hi Karen,

        Thanks for all this info – really helpful. I’ll have a look this evening!
        Cheers, Jonny.

  • Julia O’Hara

    I’m a kinship carer also. Please could you add me to your emailing list x We save government hundreds of thousands of pounds every year. The percentage of children who go on to succeed, are brought up within their families is far higher than those cared for by strangers. there needs to be more awareness and support. Most of us will be well into our 60-70’s before these kids reach 16. We give up our lives for the kids we truly love. With very little support xxx I could go on but I think others have said it all x
    Regards Julia

    • jonnymatthew

      It’s done, Julia. I’ve just registered on the Grandparents Plus website (http://www.grandparentsplus.org.uk/) to receive their newsletter, so I’ll look forward to that! You make a really valid point about the tremendous sacrifice kinship care requires of you all – I take my hat off to you! Thanks for commenting. J.

  • Karen Steele

    Hiya, I’m a Kinship Carer. Hubby and I have been together for 25 years and planned our 2 daughters (now 10 & 15). 9 years ago, without any planning or advance notice, we became parents to our 4 yr old nephew after his mum died unexpectedly. We left our local hospital with 1 less sister but 1 extra child to feed, clothe, home, etc. He lost his old home, old school, old friends, old life. The little support we have, I have either had to fight tooth & nail for; or research and source myself. Kinship Carers = The forgotten army of Foster Carers.

    • jonnymatthew

      Completely right, Karen – it makes me cross, actually! Something needs to be done to address the disparity in appreciation, recognition, financial support, training, etc. between foster care and kinship foster care… Thanks for joining the conversation! Cheers, J.

  • Sarah Grievson

    Hi Jonny,
    I too am a kinship carer. Until 18 months ago we were a quiet unit of my husband, myself and 3 children. Then one day I was contacted by a social worker from a different part of the country to ask if I could help care for some of my nieces and nephew temporarily while they assisted their mother in securing accomodation. They were living with their father. So I agreed short term. After 18 months the children are still with me, as mum told sw that she cant cope with her children back. Through this time we’ve had to leave our own home as it was too small to accommodate 6 children and rent a house. Still to this day 2 authorities are arguing who is responsible for the children and all this done without any support from children’s social care. Instead my husband works ridiculous long hours and I also work. We definitely don’t get the recognition or support that we so desperately need.

    • jonnymatthew

      Another shameful example of bureaucracy and petty self-interest by professionals which gets in the way of the children’s best interests. If they understood child development, they’d come to a compromise and get on with the real work of supporting you guys and securing the best future for the children. Good on you for doing what you do, Sarah! It’s tough now, but the kids will thank you forever… Cheers, J.

      • Helen Taylor

        Are you really taking that comment at face value?

        • jonnymatthew

          To be honest I missed it, Helen, and was replying to the original post by Sarah above… What are your thoughts? :0) J.

          • Helen Taylor

            Ah that makes sense, was thinking you were replying to Dorie.

    • Dorie Salazar

      Hi Sarah, I to was contacted by CPS. They brought me three boys who were my neices boy’s. I would take them to therapy, doctors appointment’s because the two oldest showed signs of Ahdd. They stay with us for a year. Now the house they lived in caught fire and the boys were slightly burned. I tried to go visit them but because of a social worker trying to cover her mistakes she has told CPS that I abandon the boy’s. I feel so heart broken for the fact the two yr old was four months old when he was with me. He called me momma! She does not deserve to be a social worker in my book!