Well, where to start?
I have always cared for children in some form or another, I studied child protection in my role as a Paediatric Nurse and I think that really reaffirmed what I already knew; that I love to care for those young people that need it but also that I think I could make a real life-changing difference to a child.
We had an extension built and a spare bedroom was available, we wanted to give a child a place in our home and give them a good childhood. We wanted them to feel loved and supported by people that cared about them. So we did just that.
I think fostering impacts on the whole family and my advice would be to consider how fostering would affect those closest to you before you commit to applying.
Having those initial discussions, before we started the fostering journey with Futures Group, really confirmed to us that we were ready to start the process and were strong enough to cope with any difficulties that might have come up. Do expect lots of visits and meetings, often in your own home.
The support you have access to is second to none. Do take advantage of the Support Groups that Futures Group supply and speak to other carers!
We had a chance to meet up with other carers via Futures before we applied and it was fantastic.
I think one of the most rewarding aspects of fostering is having the foster children, past and present, write nice words to you in birthday or Christmas cards and also when I hear them tell others how they appreciate all I've done for them and how I've always supported them through everything - good or bad.
Meet James & Tom…
My partner *James and I have looked after 11 children since starting fostering in 2014 and currently care for two teenagers.
If you’d told me I would meet the man of my dreams and have a family a few years ago I would not have believed you. Fostering has completely, absolutely changed my life.
We met on the internet 13 years ago. James was going on five dates a week hoping to bag a man and I was Mr Tuesday, he never got to Wednesday! I knew from the minute we met we were meant to be and we’d get married - we’re very similar and very driven and with all the others there just wasn’t that feeling.
We became civil partners on 12.12.12 after being together six years.
James and I didn’t have much in the beginning but we are very resourceful and put our heads together to get where we are. I now own an online healthcare business and James is a business advisor. Some people might have ideas about foster carers staying at home but we are a normal working family, and at 37 and 34 years old we are the youngest foster carers in Durham.
My parents fostered for 10 years and I saw what an impact and difference you can have on a child’s life. There are so many positives. It is really nice being there for somebody and to know that they rely on you and need you there when you wake up in the morning.
Fostering has meant learning more about myself than I’ve learnt ever before. I struggled with mental health problems previously and thought it would stop me from fostering. But it’s a massive positive as I understand if others are going through a hard time; I know what it is like to come out the other side from a bad place. I’ve got through it and I don’t look back, I have children to think about now.
In four years we have looked after many children from four to 17 years of age. Three years ago we got a call at 3am about an emergency placement and the teenager is still living with us. We are very open about children coming to stay with us, we don’t think you should get a catalogue to pick them; if we think we can make a difference we will definitely give it a try. We’ve had good success stories and there have always been positives at the end.
We are two men but that has not bothered the kids one bit. What you see is what you get with us. We talk for Britain and we’re relatable. We are open-minded and talk openly about anything, which helps because foster children come from such diverse backgrounds and families. We have great support around us from all walks of life, nurses, teachers, police officers – all with great knowledge we can tap into.
Our house is constantly full of people but regardless of whether you’ve had a good or bad day, we turn the TV off, listen and help work out how to deal with each other’s problems. Everyone fosters each other in this house.
The best part of fostering is seeing the kids improve. One of the children had health problems including asthma and skin problems and now he rarely uses inhalers and is on the football team. Another kid came home from school with 100% attendance rate when they previously had 9%. The big moments and memories are great, like when we all windsurf, jet-ski and scuba dive on holiday. But the smaller ones are priceless, like when we turned round in a taxi one day to see two children snuggled into each other.
Foster carers come from all walks of life - it is not the old grandma foster carer strolling round the house like Miss Hannigan, it is different nowadays. For LGBT Fostering and Adoption Week 2018, I would encourage others to give fostering a go and explore the possibility of having a family. It’s not the most conventional way in the world but if you have any time to spare, you can spend it on a child who needs you and you can have a huge impact on their future.
What is great for the LGBT community is that fostering is not restricted – it doesn’t matter if you have partner or if you are single – you can make a difference. Fostering makes you feel really proud and gives you self-worth and purpose, and to have that is the meaning of life.
CoramBAAF is an independent membership organisation for foster carers and adopters, professionals and anyone else working with or looking after children in or from care. It supports Futures for Children fostering agency, who James and Tom foster with.
We're pleased that you would like to register your interest in fostering with Futures Group.
To give your application the best chance please ensure you meet the prerequisites below:
We're always looking for foster carers from different cultural, religious and racial backgrounds, single people, couples (whether married or living together, with or without children). Together we can make a difference in children's lives.
After being a Foster Carer for 8 years now! I can just about remember what made me decide to foster.
I think my work experience is the main contributor towards that decision.
I worked in in a Residential Children's Home for a long time. It really opened my eyes to how vulnerable these young people are and how they really just need to feel cared about. I realised that I could provide care for these vulnerable children and young people from my own home and help keep siblings together.
Which is something that really means a lot to me. I think for the longest time I didn't think I could Foster. I didn't think I was strong enough, but actually, if you have the ability to care for someone and to look out for their best interests then you're halfway there.
The best advice I have for someone who is thinking of fostering is to go into this knowing that your 'work' is endless and at times it is tiring but I can honestly say, hand on heart it is incredibly rewarding.
You require bucket loads of patience, the capacity to be consistent, boundaries are important but so is the ability to be flexible as well. Always put yourself in the child's / young persons shoes and have empathy, not sympathy.
Some of them have been through some of the most difficult things you can imagine.
My happiest memory of Fostering is watching them reach milestones regardless of how small; from being able to hold a spoon or a pencil, to achieving awards and passing exams.
It was a while back now but, my wife and our three daughters, (our youngest at the time was 7 and the other 2 a couple years older) decided to foster for many reasons. Firstly, I come from a background from having been in care myself so part of it was that. We had been thinking about it for a long while but, one day, my wife and I happened to be walking through the local town doing some shopping and the local authority had an open day for fostering.
We popped in and the rest was history! We fostered for about 10 years for Essex local authority and in that time, I think we cared for about 40 children. We fostered sibling groups as well as some respite, so a broad spectrum really. In that time, we saw a good few of the young people that we cared for go on to other families for adoption.
One of the main highlights from our time fostering was seeing children through to adoption. The young people would probably have been with us for a couple of years by then, and what sticks vividly in my mind is the times when we were all outside and seeing the young people into their new family’s car.
All of us were out on the side of the road and waving goodbye, it was really emotional- it still makes me shiver now, it was a really great thing to be part of.
There were also a few challenging times being a foster carer. In one way, it was difficult looking after children that had been seriously abused and then facilitating contact for those young people with their parents in our home, because that’s what we did back then. We understood the importance of the contact for the young people, but it was difficult sometimes.
I always used to use the term of having to put my ‘foster carer hat’ on - you realise all those feelings that you have, and you are aware of them in your mind, but that you understand the task is to ensure that you do what’s best for the children.
The most heart-breaking yet joyous part was giving your all to your makeshift family, loving some of these young people in your care, and then having to see them go. However, we still keep in touch with some of the young people that moved on and went to adoption, and I think the benefits of thinking of the process that enabled our family to come together was the overriding factor of joy for us.
As I mentioned before, I have 3 of my own birth children. It was difficult for them at times I guess, but we all looked after the younger ones in our care and they would become involved as part of the family. They had some really beautiful moments, like when we would all go on holiday together.
If I spoke to my girls about it now, I believe they would say they gained a lot from the experience. They have said that they enjoyed the idea of taking in young people who had been subjected to bad experiences and making them a part of the family and keeping them safe.
For anyone thinking of fostering, I would say be clear about why you want to foster. I think that there is some research that needs to be done before because the young people we are caring for are difficult and will certainly impact your own family, so make sure everyone is on board.
It’s also really important that you have a good support network around you, that for us included extended family and they were invaluable at times.
We also managed to make connections with other foster carers and they were really supportive during our period of fostering. You should also be aware that will you be visited by social workers, by members of the fostering team or supervising social workers, support workers, local authority’s social workers, reviewing officers, etc. there are a lot of people involved in the fostering task.
The process of becoming a foster carer is one where you have to certainly revisit your own life, your own parenting, to acutely to be aware that the young people you will be looking after will have been parented in a different way. It makes you look at your own life experiences and for us, that was part of a sort of therapeutic process, it’s important to be honest and upfront throughout your assessment and your fostering career.
The process could take anywhere between 4 and 8 months and involves all the family, so again, I think it’s important that during this time you should speak to your friends and family about what you are going to be doing.
Because I have had that experience as a foster carer, I use that to inform a lot of my thinking in terms of how we work with our own carers. Supervising social workers have a real commitment to the carers and to the young people and that’s what I’m proud of.
It’s really great to hear a review where carers give feedback about their supervising social worker and say that they have had a positive experience and that they have really felt supported by our social workers, that’s what I am proud of.