15 June 2018

 Identity Crisis? 

I was taken into care by the time I was five years old. I spent time in a children’s home, and then foster care while trying to rehabilitate me and my brother home, but because of the domestic violence and abuse we suffered, the LA was granted a full care order. After 5 or 6 respite and short term foster placements finally a long term placement was identified.


After several tough years settling into the routine of a very different kind of life (which I loved by the way) the Local Authority thought it would be a great idea to again rehabilitate me and my brother ‘Home’....


So after the most settled years of my life, feeling safe and loved, I was told I would be returning home to my mother, siblings (who I didn’t know) and the dreaded Step-father! Of course, as a loyal obedient kinda girl, I went along with the whole idea as my brother seemed over the moon. As you can imagine the pain I felt to leave this amazing family was just overwhelming, but their concerns and wishes meant nothing to the Local authority as it was decided by ‘the professionals’ that it was the best plan...


As you might imagine the amazing trip home didn’t last long and we were back in foster Care after less than a year, and the relief that my amazing ‘foster family’ took me back was truly remarkable. But this happened three more times over my childhood with three attempts home, and on top of that, a ‘forever family’ which again was filled with trauma and a breakdown. Lucky for me after each breakdown, I returned ‘Home’ to my beautiful foster family which was where I remained until my independence. I now no longer consider them my ‘foster family’ - simply my family. Despite my unusual childhood, my family gave me the foundation that has enabled me to become, I believe, a stable adult.


I met my amazing husband 22 years ago, we have been married 12 years and have two teenage girls. When the girls were 2 and 3 years old, we became foster parents, as I had a drive to use my experience to help children who were in the same position I once was. We have now been fostering for 10 years. The experience and knowledge I bring to the role of a foster parent has changed children’s lives. It has been a real privilege to be part of their lives during times of trauma, to hold their hands, to celebrate their achievements to stand by them and to advocate on their behalf.


I made a promise to myself that no matter what happens in my life I needed to shout from the rooftops to help protect and keep children safe. I want to avoid the pain of neglect, and those feelings of such hunger that I had to steal bread from the cupboard while my younger brother stood on watch; the emotional and physical abuse of domestic violence, this will remain with me forever - but I can help others through it.


It’s my duty to protect these amazing children, we didn’t choose this path, and it’s not an easy one -- but, by God, it’s rewarding.


My lifetime of experience has compelled me to develop my skills further, and I now work as a trainee Social Worker with a progressive fostering organisation and am working towards my degree with the Open University (I never seem to take the easy option!).


The question I ask now is, why am I appreciated and respected as a Link Worker in supporting and attending meetings with foster families, but when I attend the same type of meeting as the ‘foster parent’ my views are not taken into account, and ‘the professionals’ ignore our views and wishes and feelings for the child.... I am the same person with the same knowledge and experience ????


We have been recently fostering a child for several months and I have been shocked by how the social workers and other professionals feel they can discount our experience and knowledge of the child.


For me, if the social worker and Local Authority do not work with the families who care for and support a child daily, then how is a child going to receive the best care? I know foster parents do not need a qualification like social workers, but I would challenge them to spend a week with a child to get to know them, and see how much skilled care and dedication we foster parents give every day. We can’t just switch off after 5pm, we are parents who will fight and advocate every step of the way for what’s right, and in the best interest of the child. This experience cannot be ignored.


So please take the time to listen to and respect a foster family you work with, they tend to know the child best. We need that respect, it enables us to stay working with these vulnerable children. By ignoring the wealth of knowledge and experience we bring to a meeting, you run the risk of destabilising a placement. Can you imagine trying to explain to a traumatised child that they have to experience another unnecessary move - simply because their parents weren't listened to.


To all my fellow Foster Parents: what amazing people you are; don’t ever feel undervalued, your opinions are what count and thank you. I vow in my new career as a Social Worker, that I will not forget my roots -- I will always listen to Foster Parents, and clearly respect their professional opinions.


And to my beautiful fellow foster children, stay strong you are bloody remarkable and have the abilities to achieve anything in life just believe in yourself. Speak up and say what you want, and trust your foster family. I see mine all the time and they made me who I am... ❤


Mrs X - Foster Parent and Link Worker


written by

Mrs X


Last modified on Friday, 28 September 2018 14:07

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