Those Who Care

The role of a Foster carer can be hugely rewarding but can come with many challenges, stress  and very emotional at times, it is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling roles there is. Watching a child develop and thrive in your care, giving them new experiences and life chances, through to them leaving your care as a young adult, going into a long term placement or forever family, there is nothing to compare it to.

Up and down the country, 1000’s of foster carers open their hearts and homes to children from all backgrounds and just need of somewhere safe to call home, where they can receive love, have the care and attention that they need to thrive and develop in.

The Covid-19 lockdown has placed additional pressure on all families and children, not just those in the care system or those that take care of them.  From home schooling, reduced contact with birth family and siblings, reviews and meetings moving online, this has placed further demands on foster carers. Many children in care, this can be even more challenging, those children that have experienced adversity and trauma leaves them more vulnerable to the changes that come with schools closing, lack of daily contact with friends and mentors and other forms of social distancing, which further disrupts routines.

The aim of this project is to throw a light on foster carers and show that foster carers are normal people doing an extraordinary job, through unprecedented times. All the foster carers and support workers in the project care for children from the Barnsley area. The data from last Index of Multiple Deprivation, shows that areas of Barnsley are some of the most deprived areas in the country in areas such as employment, health and crime. This means that children coming into the care system have a wide range of challenges due to their experiences before coming into the care system, making them more  vulnerable and requiring foster carers to have a wide range of skills and training.

Each carer was asked to bring something along to the photo shoot that meant something to them, the item it did not need to be related to fostering. They were also asked if they had one wish what would that be.  

This is their story:-

 

Sharon

Over the past 14 years which I have been fostering, we have welcomed and looked after over 30 children. Before becoming a foster carer I was a childminder providing respite care for a range of children with additional needs or life limiting conditions. One of those children was taken into care and we were not able to look after this child due to not being approved as a foster carer, at this point we made as a family we made the decision to apply to become a foster carer.

Fostering at times can be the best job in the world, I don't see it as a job but as a vocation, but at times it can become very emotional and stressful, to help relax I like to sit somewhere quiet, have a cup of tea and think about all the positives of being a carer. We have 3 teenagers living with us at the moment, one is currently in the staying put program and preparing her for independance.

I wish that there was not a need for foster carers and that all children have a loving family, where they can be safe and they can have a full life.

 

 

   

 

Suzanne

I have 2 children of my own and currently looking after 3 foster children at home at the moment, making it very busy place to be, especially in a morning when the children are getting ready for school.

Over the past 9 years that we have been fostering, I have found it to be very rewarding, sometimes difficult and challenging for both myself and my husband.

The ring I am holding means a lot to me, it was given by my sister when she was in hospital following a brain hemmorhage, my sister  gave it to me when she woke up and asked me to look after it, so I carry the ring with me always.

My wish is that kids did not have to be taken into care for abuse or neglect and that every child deserves the right to be safe.

 

Helen

I never though that I would be able to foster, with only having a 2 bedroom house and having my daughter still living at home where would a child sleep?  But 4 years ago someone told me that you did not have to have a spare room to be able to foster, it all depends on the age of the child. I am now approved to foster babies and am currently taking care of a 3 month old baby, with their crib in my bedroom.

I bought Cosmo with me, he is a very special teddy to me. After trying to get pregnant for a number of years, the day I was told that I was expecting the first thing I did before telling anyone was to go to the shops and buy a teddy. So Cosmo came into our home along with the wonderful news of a baby on the way.

The best thing about being a foster carer for me, is the first time adoptive parents see their new child and I hand that child over to them, all the children I have had in my care have gone onto adoption. It reminds me the first time I saw my daughter after I gave birth, it is always an emotional time for everyone.

Unlike other occupations this is 24x7 365 days a year, with no break or holidays without the children, but all foster carers go into this aware of the commitment that they are making.

My wish is that the process to become approved to adopt was much quicker. New parents miss out on so much of their child's life whilst they go through the process.

 

Joanne

I have brought Big Ted along so everyone can meet him, he means so much to me as I have had him all my life. When I was young playing at the park Big Ted was left behind and a group of boys decided to play football with him. When we went back to find him, he was in a very poor state, but my mum managed to make a new jump suit for him and patch him up, which made a little girl very happy. Big Ted is a link to my mum who passed away 17 years ago, I now have 2 daughters of my own and have one child in placement at the moment.

Our friends who have been fostering for over 30 years, asked me on a number of occasions why I did not think about becoming a foster carer, but every time my reply was I could never do that. But after discussing it with my husband David and seeing the positive impact fostering has on a child's life we decided to apply. That was over 3 years ago, we both still work and my job is a dinner lady at a local primary school the hours fit in really well with the age of the child we have in placement. If I can be half the mum to the children we look after as my mum was to me, then I will have achieved something truly lifechanging.

My wish is that my mum could see how my girls have grown up to be wonderful young ladies and that she could have met her grandchildren and children we have cared for, even for a brief moment would make me so proud.

 

Amanda

Over the past 24 years that I have been fostering, I have had a wide variety of children in my care a lot of them I still see and in contact with. Me and my husband Tony look after children who requires long term care and then moving onto the staying put program, as we like committing to children who require longer care.

A long-term friend of on mine Pat Taylor, who passed away earlier this year saw how I interacted with the children she was looking after and told me that I had a calming nature and should look into becoming a foster carer.  Before I worked for Ravens, that at the time was based on Ponds Street in Barnsley, Ravens is no longer around and closed some years ago.

I have brough along with a message in a bottle that Tony gave me on our 1st wedding anniversary, it contains a poem that has a sentimental meaning to me.  My wish is for all the children I have looked after and my own, that they we all settled, with a job that they love.

 

Cheryl & Richard

16 Years ago, when we first started fostering, our two boys were moving on, the eldest had joined the Army and the youngest had got his first job and was making his own way in the world. This made it an ideal time to look at becoming  foster carers. For most of his live Richard has always been in childcare, from working for social services in a residential setting as a key learning mentor so moving into the role of a foster carer was a natural fit. Cheryl at the time was working as a seamstress making fancy dress costumes for a local fancy dress shop.

We currently have 2 children in our care, one is on short term placement and the other we have gone special guardianship for and he will be with us until he leaves home as an adult. We first met working in Butlins over 40 years ago and the teddy that we are holding Richard gave to Cheryl with the words “from me to you together forever” and we have not looked back since.

Our wish is to be able to retire in a sunny climate and be able to enjoy looking after the grandchildren and seeing the children we have cared for over the years.

Tony

November 2012, I had my first experience of fostering and how much it makes a difference to a child’s life. My background was not in childcare or working with children but, in a bread factory supervising cake production lines, which produce over 60,000 Mr Kipling slices per hour.   My now wife is a foster carer and has been doing the role long before we met, I found it quite a different challenge to brining up my own children. Staying calm in difficult situations, talking through issues and guiding a child to see both points of view in order to keep themselves and others safe, is just a few new skills I had to learn. Looking after a child in care can be very different to looking after one’s own children, but some things remain, having a safe and welcoming home is just one of them.

The gorilla was my mums who passed away a number of years ago, I always remember when I was in her craft room on the computer, it was on the shelf above the desk looking down on me. It brings me straight back home with mum when I squeeze the gorilla’s tummy, instead of a deep gorilla noise it makes more of a duck sound, which always brought a smile to her face.

My wish is that all the children we have looked after do well in life.

Mark

As a photographer over the years, I have taken many photographs of the children we have looked after. When I look back at the images, they bring back fond memories of the times we had with the children, days out, Christmases, birthdays and holidays we have taken together as a family.

Photographs play a large part of a child’s memory box and life story book which goes with them when they leave our care, it is always enjoyable working with a child adding to their own story book. If a child has been with us for a long period of time, we use the book to look back on and to talk about different experiences that they have had.

Having been a foster carer for over 14 years and looked after over 30 children during this time, there is plenty of memories to look back on. My wish is that every child had a safe and loving home to develop and grow in, without the need to be taken into care.


 

Josie

 After I left university with a degree in nursing, I never thought that one day I would become a foster carer. Then after working in the Barnsley Family Support Service for quite number of years, covering Barnsley South and Penistone, fostering was something that I and my husband had talked about for many years.  My son was a foster carer at the time, and this prompted to us to investigate becoming a foster carer ourselves.  After working with children for many years in my previous role, we thought that these skills could transfer into fostering, at the time myself and my husband we're looking at a change of career this was 2 ½ years ago and we now have 2 siblings in our care.  

I have brought this book with me as it means a lot of sentimental value, it is called “The Little White Horse” by Elisabeth Goudge and I have had the book from a young age, you can see that it is well read and very much loved. The story is about a girl that brings peace to a family, the story resonates with me as it is not just about making a difference to a family but making a lasting difference in life to others. It is similar to fostering, where you are not just making a difference to a child in your care but making a generational difference in breaking the cycle and to help prevent history repeating itself. Giving children better life chances and opportunities, not letting past life define their futures. 

Books have always been a good friend to me, from when I was a little girl and throughout my life.   

My wish is that I can make a positive difference to the children I care for and they also make difference during their lives to others. 

Eleanor

 

My career has provided me with a range of transferable skills that I have been able to call upon during my time as a foster carer. I started my career as a mental health nurse working with people with learning difficulties, then moved on to working as a under 5's children’s advisor for the diocese of Wakefield. Following a merger within the church, I decided to take redundancy, taking a year out to concentrate on going through the process of becoming a foster carer. My mum was adopted as a child, it was a subject that we talked about and discussed openly as a family, at this time also moved into a larger house which gave use a spare bedroom that could be used for a foster child.

The years leading up to becoming approved as a foster carer and the 3 years since, have been the most challenging of my life, after losing both my parents during a short period of time and then finding out that my husband had been  diagnosed with cancer, really turned my life up side down. And then to round it off, I broke my ancle coming out of the Barnsley Town hall after our fostering review.

Following rounds of chemotherapy and radio therapy, just before Christmas my husband was told that there was nothing else they could do for him and withdrew treatment. Sadly he passed away last April, it was just before our silver wedding anniversary, it was not long after a baby that was in our care went for adoption. Shortly after his passing it was my daughter’s 18th birthday and my sons 21st, we picked the presents together before he passed away. The ring I have brought with me today we picked together, the pendant on my arm contains the ashes of my husband so he is always with me.

If I had one wish, it would be that I had not to go back to the fostering panel to be approved as a single carer and we were still a family of 4.