We have foster carers from a diverse range of backgrounds within our fostering family. Below you can read some of their stories and experiences from years of fostering:
Toby and his family SHOW
Fostering family for four years
Toby is 21 and lives with his mum and step-dad in Southampton. They have been a fostering family for Southampton City Council since 2017. Toby said “When my Mum asked me what I thought about the idea of becoming a fostering family, I was really positive; I thought it was a great opportunity and a good choice for her as Mum loves helping people and she had always said she would foster children someday!”
Talking about his own experiences of fostering, he said, "I have found it very rewarding helping to build, and create, new and positive working relationships with the young people who come to live in our house. Of course, it’s not all been easy and we’ve had difficult times too but overall I have really enjoyed being involved."
Toby would encourage other families to find out more about fostering. "I would recommend doing thorough research first and to be absolutely certain you want to go ahead. Once you’ve done that, I’d say go for it!"
Becca and Paul* SHOW
Foster carers since 2013
Becca and Paul live in Southampton and have been fostering since 2013. Not long after meeting each other, Becca asked Paul for his thoughts on fostering, as she had spent weekends and holidays with a foster family throughout her teenager years. “From my own experiences, I really appreciated the need for safe, loving homes,” said Becca, as her family struggled with mental health and alcohol issues.
Becca and Paul waited until their two children were old enough to start school before enquiring about fostering with Southampton City Council. “We felt that our two boys had a really strong bond, were close in age and that they always had each other, in good times, and bad. I know no family is perfect which gave me the confidence to pursue fostering as a young mum. The time felt right to take the first step,” said Becca.
The family provide respite and short-term foster care for children mainly aged 0-4 years, although they have looked after children aged 4-10 years for short periods. Becca comments, “It is really important to us that our children feel secure in their own home, so we try to make sure the foster children we welcome are not older than our youngest son.”
Becca enjoys fostering stating, “We have loved looking after the little ones and making them feel a part of our family for however long they need it. We see ourselves as ‘stepping stones’, there to help them build confidence, and their emotional and physical skills, they can take with them into their future.” She adds “The support groups available have also been invaluable; it has been great getting to know other foster carers with similar age children”.
Of course, there’s been challenges along the way. Becca says, “One of my sons summed up fostering perfectly for me when he said, ‘the trickiest part of a placement is the first month, and the last month’. At the beginning it takes time to get to know each other, for example, likes and dislikes and then it can get tough when you are preparing to move the little ones on and say goodbye”.
Becca expressed “When we started fostering, one of our biggest concerns was how our birth children would find it. However, we didn’t need to worry! Our children have been fantastic; we have seen all our foster children connect with them in the most wonderful way. Some of the very young children may not be able to give eye contact to adults, but they do with the boys which is heart-warming to see. Fostering is so rewarding for us as a family!”
*Names have been changed.
Jasmine and Kate* SHOW
Foster carers since 2018
Jasmine* and Kate*, a same sex couple, live in Southampton and started fostering in 2018. “We’d been thinking about fostering for about seven years; it was a very long process for us as we started and stopped the assessment process three times as the time just wasn’t right. We knew we’d be able to provide a safe, loving and healthy home for children in need though, and it was something we really wanted to do so, in the end we decided to just go for it!” said Jasmine.
Jasmine and Kate have undertaken respite and short term fostering and have fostered seven children so far. They will shortly be going back to panel to be approved as long-term foster carers for a 7 year-old child. Both Jasmine and Kate work and this fits in well when the children are in education as Kate can work from home when Jasmine is at work which helps with school runs etc.
“We have met some really lovely children who have accepted us as a couple without too many questions. We have received praise from professionals, including school teachers, on the children’s progression whilst in our care, which has been very rewarding to hear,” says Kate.
Fostering hasn’t been without its challenges. Jasmine comments “We have seen some challenging behaviours including absconding, exclusions from school and criminal damage, to name a few, but the support groups we’ve used have been invaluable. We were able to chat with other foster carers who understood some of the difficulties we have faced. We recently fostered a non-English speaking child which brought new hurdles with communication, but gradually we worked our way through.”
Jasmine and Kate are keen to recommend fostering to others and said “Before you go into it, seriously think about what you can offer a child, how it will work for your family and ensure you have a very strong support network. Teaching children a happy and healthy way of life is really satisfying; it’s so encouraging to see the positive changes in children,” says Kate.
*Names have been changed.
Foster carer since 2019
Donna lives in Southampton and was approved as a foster carer in 2019. “Fostering was something I’ve always been keen to do; I wanted to see if I could make a real difference to children’s lives,” says Donna.
She is approved as a long-term carer. Donna says, “My first placement was a 16 year old girl. I was then approved to look after a second child, a 14 year old girl. The two girls largely get along very well and it’s lovely to see them both playing on our karaoke machine and painting their nails, doing face masks etc together.”
Donna works full-time as an academic at a university. “As my job role has flexibility, I have found fostering alongside work hasn’t been a problem. The university has family-friendly policies regarding working hours and I can work from home when needed. Furthermore, as my two are teenagers they are that bit more independent, they have their own friendship groups and are confident getting public transport. They can also amuse themselves at home and enjoy watching Netflix! We regularly enjoy meals together, without mobile phones, where we have a good chat, and we recently had a wonderful holiday in North Wales where we did lots of activities!” comments Donna.
“I have seen massive positive developments in both girls. To see such a profound difference over a relatively short period of time has been inspirational! I have also got to know two young people who I would never have met in my pre fostering life which would have been a real shame as their resilience is awesome. They are clever and funny and my life is richer for having them in it,” she enthuses.
Looking after teenagers has not been without its ups and downs. “They’re teenagers, so some challenges are attributable to their age rather than their situation, such as testing boundaries. Other difficulties have been disliking school, and the ‘services’ (police, social workers, etc)” says Donna.
Donna has lots of useful advice for people thinking about applying to be a foster carer for teenagers. “My top tips are ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’. Tackle the big stuff then move on to the smaller issues. If the young person is feeling emotional and is shouting or crying, I give them some space and act normal. Nine times out of ten we have a calm conversation and I can help them move forward. Laughter is a great diffuser, you can’t be upset if someone makes you laugh!”
Donna ends “Finally, enjoy your young person’s company! They will share stories with you, some sad and some happy. But this is them and this is part of really getting to know them!”
Monika and her family SHOW
Fostering family for six years
Monika* is 12 years old and lives with her Mum, Dad and brother in the New Forest. They have been a fostering family for six years and have looked after over 40 children!
“I’ve really enjoyed inviting other children into our family and giving them the support they need. I love that I always have someone to play with as well; there’s nothing I don’t like about fostering!” says Monika. “I would definitely recommend it as it gives you a great feeling, knowing that you could have made a positive difference to children’s lives.”
Monika’s mum agrees, “Monika’s Dad and I always knew we were going to foster; we actually talked about it on our first date! We wanted to have our own birth children first, so as soon as we had, we started looking into our fostering options. We started as respite foster carers, which was a good way of introducing new children into our family. From this, we could see how our children thrived and we knew it was definitely the right time. We love having a full house! We are quite active and enjoy being outside, but also enjoy getting the popcorn out and relaxing to watch a movie!”
Foster carer since 2001
Anya* is a single carer and lives in Southampton. She has been fostering since 2001. Family circumstances led to her looking after her nephew in a kinship arrangement, and when this finished, Anya decided she wanted to take care of other children in similar situations. As Anya was a kinship carer for another Local Authority, she had to undergo the assessment process again when she chose to foster with Southampton City Council. Although this took time, Anya said it was well worth it!
Anya has looked after eight children and at the moment is looking after a nine year old boy on a long term placement.
"Of course, there are many challenges in fostering. The hardest time for me was when a child was unable to regulate their feelings and they started to become a bit physical. It can be distressing seeing a child go through these emotions but with the extensive training and development we receive in these fields from Southampton City Council, we aim to help them as best we can. I enjoy all the challenges that fostering brings, and it’s rewarding to know that I can make a difference in a child’s life. I feel like part of a team and know the support is there when I need it," said Anya.
Deana and Paul* SHOW
Foster carers since 2012
Deana* and Paul* live in Chandler’s Ford and have been fostering since 2012. Deana and Paul are short-term and respite carers, and have fostered 13 children. At the moment they are currently fostering two non-related children, aged 1 and 6.
Deana and Paul shared their experiences:
"We had friends and family that fostered and seeing the satisfaction they got from it and the positive changes they made to a young person’s life made us think about fostering too,“ said Deana. “We did our research and spoke to a few local fostering agencies, and social workers at local authorities before deciding to proceed with Southampton City Council.
For anyone considering fostering, I would say you need to be totally committed to the child and willing to be their advocate, and from the beginning be non-judgemental and empathetic as your attitude can have a significant impact on the placement. You need to be prepared that sometimes children act inappropriately in social settings and children who are traumatised may lash out physically and verbally. Sometimes the public aren’t quite so understanding! Flexibility is key as there’s training and meetings to attend, as well as the requirement of being available for the child at all times; it will impact on your family life. Be open to offering love as well as support, but also be aware and prepare for saying goodbye."
Deana said she finds attending the Support Groups that are available really beneficial. "They give you the chance to discuss any problems you may be having or to ask for advice from experienced carers who may have been in a similar situation, as well as providing the opportunity to listen to other carers and their struggles or positive experiences. You also get to know carers who may be able to help you out with child care/respite."
Deana and Paul concluded "It's so rewarding seeing the change in a child's behaviour, attitude and self-confidence after they’ve stayed with us, which enables them to confidently move on to permanence."
*names have been changed
<h3>Foster carer since 2017</h3>
<p>Chris is a single, male foster carer who lives in Southampton. He has been fostering since 2017. "I was an Independent Visitor and wanted to take the next step into fostering so I decided to become a respite foster carer which works perfectly alongside my full-time job. At present I provide respite care for an 11 year old child which is for one weekend every six weeks."</p>
<p>Chris really enjoys getting to know the children and helping them to experience new things in a secure environment. "Of course, there’s been a few challenges along the way", says Chris. "I’ve met children who have been abused which has reflected in their attitude and behaviours, and others with issues around food. It’s also difficult seeing how accepting the children are about sometimes moving from placement to placement."</p>
<p>Chris has some advice for anyone thinking about fostering. "Make sure fostering is something you really want to do as you don’t want to let a child down if your heart isn’t in it. I’d also recommend having a strong support network around you; that can really help."</p>
*names have been changed