Trudy has been a foster carer with us, along with her husband Dwain, for 15 years but has sadly decided to stop fostering after her latest foster placement has now turned 18 and has moved on to adult life.
We spoke to her over the phone and asked her about the last 15 years of her fostering journey. She has some excellent tips for future foster carers or those just starting their journey.
Please tell us about yourself
We are just an ordinary family. I have 2 grown-up children with children of their own now. I have only had 1 placement at a time and 1 lad for 10 years who needed his own placement. We’re just a run of the mill family, I’ve only ever done hairdressing and been a mum. When my children had left the nest, we saw the advert in the paper and we just thought we could do this! We’ve got animals, we’re all animal lovers. We’re just ordinary people.
Tell us what made you decide to be a foster carer
We had already been to 1 agency. We didn’t feel comfortable with them. Dwain saw Futures Group in the paper and said, ‘what about this one?’ Zammy was in the office and I spoke to her and it was so different so we came aboard with Futures!
I had been working in a nursing home for 13 years but it was starting to get too depressing. I used to do all the old girl’s hair, and I thought, ‘do you know what, I could do something more, but I don’t know what’. And then I thought, I could do this. And that’s how it came about really.
Why did you choose Futures For Children over other agencies?
We had seen another advert and we sat in a big oast house, they all pulled up in their off-roaders and looked really posh, and I know the money was good.
They said you need to know how to use a computer, we have all these get-togethers and sometimes dinner parties. We just looked at each other and said, 'this isn’t for us' because we felt uncomfortable.
Back then I didn’t know how to use a computer and I thought no I don’t want to feel pressurised, I’m here to look after children, that should be the priority. So, we came away from there feeling a bit deflated but then we literally saw the advert in the paper. So, my husband said 'shall we give these a ring?'
When Zammy answered it was different and I just thought yeah, this felt so right, and we never looked back, that’s why we chose Futures.
Do you have a favourite memory from your time here?
I’ve got lots of favourite memories. One of my favourite memories was with T, when he actually learnt to swim. He’s been a very petrified little boy of water.
We had a long hard slog of 2 years of swimming lessons. I said to him, ‘look, you’re not going to thank me in the long run when you’re a teenager, you’re going to Ibiza and you’re going to have to sit there, I said you can’t sit there with Lightning McQueen water wings on. We’re going to do this. I did it for my children now you’re going to do it.’
Now he can jump off a boat and swim. That was a real mission but one I accomplished which is a lovely memory. And a memory of him taking his first flight on a holiday. I’ve had lots over the years.
I looked after a travelling girl for a year which was tough, and she was hard to make friends with but I had a lovely letter from that said if she could ever choose, she was sorry, it took her to become a wife and a mother to realise how rough she had treated us but she said if she could pick anywhere over again to spend her childhood it would have been with Dwain and I which was really a lovely thing to have said about you so that was a lovely memory.
For me, I just feel like seeing the happiness you can achieve as foster carers is lovely. It’s sometimes the little things you get the most benefits out of. There is lots.
How has your fostering journey been overall?
Up and down. Many challenges along the way.
I think we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I can probably deal with a teenager that nicks from my purse and lies all the time. I found confrontational teenage girls hard to deal with. I have felt uncomfortable in my own house around some teenage girls.
I would say you need a strong relationship with your partner. There has been times where Dwain has disagreed with what I have done and I have disagreed with what he has done which can come between you if you’re not careful, but if you work through it it’s okay.
There have been lots of challenges but lots of rewards as well. For me I didn’t have other foster children to look after, purely 1 and my children are grown up. Having said that, there was a time where I had to step back and think as old as my children are they still need me. There was a time where my daughter felt she couldn’t get a word in edgeways because someone was taking all of my time, and then I had to step back and think, ‘do you know what? I’m still her mum, even though she’s in her 20’s, she still needs me.’
So it does take up a lot of your time and some children can be extremely attention-seeking. 15 years later I am glad we did it and it has been a rewarding job and one that has fitted in with our family really well.
What type of support have you received from the staff at Futures For Children?
I have always got on with all the social workers I have had. I can honestly say, hand on heart, I have never phoned the office and found someone off or moody or not helpful. Never. I think that’s why we have always stayed with Futures Group. I have always felt like you are all very professional but made you feel comfortable at the same time. I have got on well with everybody. There’s never been anything to concern me at all. I have had quite a few social workers but it’s always been fine.
Do you have any tips for people that are just starting their fostering journey?
Have a good sense of humour. There are a lot of things you have to laugh about after.
Only do it if you have a strong relationship whether you’re married or with a partner because some children have favourites but you have to take it with a pinch of salt. Like the young girl we had, she got away with a lot more from Dwayne, so you need a good strong relationship and the same with your family network.
My mum has always been hands-on with the children and with babysitting. When we needed a week’s break the children never went into respite. I’m not someone that always has to be in touch with other carers as I have lots of friends, but everybody is different.
If I could cope with something I wouldn’t ring the office I would deal with things as best I can on my own, but I think it definitely helps to have family, and if you need a break it’s good to have people you can rely on to help look after the children.
If you go on holiday with family, you can have an evening out, because you are still working when on holiday, I had to watch T like a hawk sometimes, you can’t just doze off and forget they’re there, so if you can, have someone else to help. But I can honestly say he has never spoilt any of the family holidays, we’ve always managed okay.
But you need friends, you need good support. If you need to talk to the other carers, Futures do coffee mornings and when we all meet together you can air your differences and obviously, you can talk about things that you can’t to other people, so I have been lucky like that.
What do you plan on doing now you are leaving after 15 years?
Well to be honest Dwain is coming up to retirement age. We would have kept T longer if needed to.
It was always going to be difficult because when you’ve looked after someone for a long time, it can start to get difficult to look after them once they become a man, for various reasons such as them getting a girlfriend and being an adult once they’re 18.
I think it was going to be the time to give up fostering. Purely because of having grandchildren. When my daughter had her baby and needs to go back to work I am going to have the baby. I am a carer that thinks these children need 1 to 1 attention which I have been able to give to all my children. I just think now is the right time and it all slotted in really well. I think this was always going to be the time where we considered. If the grandchildren hadn’t come along then possibly, we would have carried on but I think now is the right time.
And I think sometimes there comes a time in your life where you think, ‘hey I want to go away for the weekend’. We’re getting older now but I certainly don’t regret the path we took, it’s been a good 15 years.
Hopefully, we’ve made a difference in these children’s lives, and it is a rewarding job as well as challenging.
If you think you can change a child's life the way Trudy has changed the lives of the children she has looked after, fill out an enquiry pack today and you could be the role model a young person needs to help them grow up into amazing young adults.
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