Fostering – more than just a job

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It’s tricky for me to find the right words when talking about our foster carers. To express my gratitude. Someone once said to me “without them there’s no us” – I guess this pretty much sums it up.

They looked after and loved our children until we were able to take over. Until the stars aligned and we could bring them home. We are forever grateful for the significant part they played in bringing our family together.

Never underestimate how crucial a foster carers role is in the adoption process. Supporting troubled or traumatised children. I can’t image how it must feel to get the phone call that there’s a child in need. Hear the back story. See the fear in their eyes. Sense the vulnerability in their actions. But slowly and steadily, foster carers give them comfort. Form healthy attachments. Show them life can be better. Should be better.

I’m truly delighted to share with you the thoughts of @fosteringiscaring who I connected with on Instagram. It’s a privilege to hear first-hand how she approaches her “job”. As adoptive parents, I think you’ll agree it’s so much more than this.

I asked her the following questions, here are her responses…

What are the main challenges you face when children are first placed with you?     

The challenges are immense. Our most challenging placement was when we had 3, all 2.5 years and under. All non-verbal, not potty trained, and displaying self-injury behaviour. When I say we were like cats on hot bricks I mean it. Constantly waiting for one of them to have a trigger which we would need to therapeutically help them through. This was a very difficult placement. Our lives completely revolved around their needs. 10pm bowls of cornflakes were very often our tea during this time. Whilst trying to settle into life as a new “family” (we’re aware this is temporary), we’d often have 3 or more contacts a week – meetings, appointments, etc. This made settling in difficult as everything just seemed so rushed.  In the first month of their placement we probably had 20 appointments/meetings. They were pretty much daily and were a lot to factor in amongst their needs.

How does it feel when you know a child has been matched?

It’s always a strange feeling. Most of the time we’ve worked with the birth families for 6 + months. Grown a relationship with them. So, when you know it’s coming to an end, it can be bittersweet. We’ve always been really lucky and had good relationships with birth families. Once a child has been matched, goodbye contact is arranged soon after. That’s a really tough day.  My heart breaks for the birth parents as this really is the final goodbye. However, these little people deserve love, nourishing, and stability. Adoption gives that to them. It’s the start of something really great for them. My husband and I are always keen to meet their adoptive parents. To start growing a relationship with them too.

How do you prepare the children for adoption?

Generally, the little ones we’ve moved on to adoption are around 2.5 years old, or younger. They have very little understanding of what’s ahead and what adoption is. However, we try our very best to ensure they know that as much as we love them (and we really do), that we’re just a steppingstone. We start talking about what toys they’ll take when they go to their Dad and Daddy, Mum and Mummy or Mum and Dad. Usually when we start preparing them, we know about their forever family and the dynamics.  We try and make sure their memory boxes are completed a few weeks prior to introductions. This allows them a chance to see all the memories they’ll take with them. Two of our little ones who were recently moved on took 500+ photos from the last 15 months!

I think if we have an older child in the future, preparation will be talking about what adoption is and why it will be good for them. They’ll have much more understanding. We’ll talk through what this will give them and how important it is for them to have the stability of a forever family. 

How do you integrate transition books/toys?

We get the transition books and stuffed toys around 2-3 weeks prior to introductions starting. This allows us to introduce them gradually. Our last two who moved on to adoption were 18 months, and 2.5 years old. We read their introduction book with them every night. Used it as their bedtime story. We found it worked really well. Their stuffed animals were left on their beds to play with when they were ready. We let them know they could do this anytime.  Our 2.5-year-old requested to sleep with “Daddy” every night, which was the introduction book – really cute! 

In their bedroom they had photos of their birth family. We slowly started to replace these (they go in a memory box), with photos of their new family so they can always see them. The way we introduce these items has worked really well for us. When they meet their adoptive families, they’ve always called them “Dad, Mum, etc” from the get-go. This is absolutely lovely to hear!

How do you deal with “goodbyes”?

Goodbyes are extremely difficult. I will never sugar coat this. I try to hold back my tears until we’ve shut the door. But it doesn’t always happen. These little people always have a massive impact on our lives. They’re part of our family, and always will be. To say goodbye is the end of our part in their life. We send them to their new families with all their memories, so when they’re older, they can see exactly how much we cared for them. Also, in their memory boxes is a letter from us. We write about how much we love them, enjoyed caring for them, and wish them nothing but the best. We are usually the first people they’ve ever had a healthy attachment with. We can only hope that they’ll get this with their forever family. There’s no denying it though – the goodbye is awful.  

We always hope that we get to stay in-touch, but if not, we know we’ve done our very best. We know they’re getting exactly what they deserve, which is stability, love, and a family of their own. We tell each child the same, whether they’re 20 weeks old or 20 years old – the door is always open if they need a home.

How does on-going contact work?

When children move on to adoption, our Local Authority tries to arrange a contact visit within around 6 weeks. Depending on circumstances this can happen sooner. This helps the children to see that we’ve not just disappeared. That we still love them greatly. But they need to start to understand we’re no longer their main caregivers. This can take some time depending on their age or how long they’ve been part of our family. It’s always so lovely to see them. To see how they’re doing. How they’ve bonded with their parents.  Adoption really is so beautiful!

We say to every adoptive family; the phone is always on, and the door is always open. We want them to know we are here for them if they ever need a chat, advice, or if we can answer any questions. Unfortunately, it’s up to adopters whether to keep in-touch or not. We hope they do but understand if they need a while to bond as a new family. It is a challenge and they will have their own difficulties to adjust to I’m sure.

Throughout all our time fostering, we feel exceptionally privileged to have been a part of so many wonderful children’s lives. We feel grateful we were able to be their safe place, if only for a little while.”

I don’t mind admitting I shed a tear when I read this. A genuine insight into what it’s really like to foster. It’s so heart-warming. I get such an overwhelming sense of the love felt for the children in her care. Thank you @fosteringiscaring for entrusting me with your story.

Foster carers open their hearts to vulnerable children. Hold a nervous hand. Hug away a fear. They love. They care. They share. Their role is to give a safe, secure and stable place to call home. Something these youngsters may never have experienced. Protection shouldn’t be a privilege. Love shouldn’t be limited. Children deserve to feel, well – like children. Foster carers make this happen.

And when the time is right and the rewards of their dedication and commitment have paid off, they open their homes to adoptive parents. They gently and steadily pave the way for us to become a mum or a dad. They help and guide us. Teach us what we need to know about our son or daughter.

We have always talked to our children about the wonderful kindness their foster carers gave them. Stressed how important they are in our lives. If you are familiar with my children’s adoption storybook – The Family Fairies – you may know that I dedicated it to foster carers and social workers. To give them some much deserved recognition. They are the true “family fairies”…they really do make dreams come true.

You can follow @fosteringiscaring on Instagram as she continues her remarkable journey of changing little ones lives. You’ll also find me there too with my account @rosemarylucasstorytime .

To read some of the great feedback the The Family Fairies has received, you can check find out more in Book Reviews . I’m delighted it’s helped to support so many little ones in understanding their adoption journeys, including their transition from foster home to forever home. You can Purchase a copy here. Thank you!

Published by rosemarylucas

Adoptive mum and author of The Family Fairies, a children's storybook helping to explain the adoption process.

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