‘My Mum thought fostering would ruin my chances of meeting someone…’

Julie, one of our wonderful champions, talks with her friend Alison about being a single foster carer.

I met her in work and as we both bolted down to the canteen for free food, I knew we’d be friends. Little did I know how much she would change my life.

I am just back from attending the Fostering Network Ball with my lovely friend Alison. She holds a defiant backbone of strength with a sense of ease that is exemplary. She walked with me as I dispelled myths about fostering, one major one being that it is possible as a single carer. With over fifteen years of fostering behind her I can honestly say she has been to every depths and heights known possible within this field.

Although she started off as a single carer, she is now married with three lively wee dotes, a 15-year-old who she fosters and a dog to add into the mix.

All glammed up and with a belly full of cheesecake, I decided to find out more about why Alison decided to foster as a single person. This was our conversation…

Me: 'So what made you, as a young, free and single twenty-something, decide to foster?'

Alison: During my first social work job, there was one story that never left me and I knew I had to do it. I had to remove two young boys from their home; they were just seven- and nine-years-old. From 9am to 8pm that day, I did all that I could to find them a placement. There was nothing.

All day continuous phone calls – I just couldn't believe there was nowhere! It was heartbreaking. In the end, they had to be separated and the look on their faces as I tried to explain that will never leave me. They were miles apart.

That was it for me, I made the decision that I had to pursue fostering.

'Were you afraid of doing it by yourself?'

Absolutely. I remember my big thing was, ‘what if the child doesn’t like me?’ or ‘what if I don’t like them?!’

[We giggled at the complete honesty at this point and took another sip of wine.]

Of course I wondered if I would cope, especially if I could cope with the challenging behaviours by myself. And then there is the fear of allegations. Maybe that’s the social worker in me, but it all goes through your head.

‘So what made you decide to go ahead with it?'

Social workers helped with the concerns but I was determined that it was something I was going to do. I saw firsthand the genuine difference it could make to a child’s life. I chose love rather than fear.

‘How did your family and friends react?'

My mum was devastated!

‘What?! Really?'

Well, she thought I was too young and it would ruin my chances of meeting anyone. I guess if I'm honest it was a thought that crossed my mind too, that's pretty natural, right? But it gripped my heart and I just had to do it.

As a single carer you’re in such a unique season of your life to be able to give that time. The children who I've met have really needed the one-on-one attention I could offer.And besides, you actually have someone to go with you to see Disney movies at the cinema, which is pretty great!

‘So did you win your mum around?'

Eventually! I just explained that this is such a part of who I am, so therefore I would have to meet someone who shared this heart if we were going to be together. Which I did, in the end, and we now foster as a team.

But, you know, my mum became one of the biggest supports I have and that’s so important – your support network is vital. It’s your foundation. That outlet to help you vent, process, or just cry. I have it in my mum, and I have it in you too [I grinned inanely at knowing this]. You need those people who can walk with you on this journey.

‘What about your church, was there much support there?'

Erm… yes, to an extent. When people would take an interest and not judge if the children kicked the pews or played their games. That time, that eye contact, that attention, made them feel welcome and not different. The simplest of questions can mean so much.

‘So, tell me about your expectations. Did the reality match up?'

In my head, I thought I would be dealing with really challenging behaviour. But realistically, most of the time the children just want to be with you. Of course there is challenging behaviour, but it’s definitely a lot more do-able than I had imagined. You don’t always need to fill your calendar with every activity under the sun, sometimes it’s the very simple things like doing the gardening together or going to the park. They often just want your time.

‘What would you say to a single carer considering fostering?'

Really, I’d just say go for it. I can’t promise the fears and concerns will leave you, but you just face them. I believe that if God has given you the heart, He will give you the strength.

Commit to what you can. I started by doing respite, which always felt like I wasn’t really doing enough, but now I’m a full-time carer I can honestly say that respite has the potential to hold a placement together. It helps with the longevity for the carer and the child. Personally, I would never have been able to jump right into full time, so to start as respite was a great option for me.

I would also say remember the reason why you start. There is love and security in your home that you can offer children who need it. Holding on to this can help through times of waiting and frustration.

‘Any final words?'

Just do it! Sorry, I know if I read that I would totally roll my eyes, but it honestly is true. At the end of the day, you could talk about it and talk about for ten years or more, and the reality is that in that time you could have a dozen or more placements and have really made a difference in the lives of vulnerable and precious children and young people.

At this point, we set down our empty glasses and clapped as a Foster Carer was celebrated for their 36 years of service. Truly inspiring. Think of how many children they will have reached with their love.

This is the hope. For the love in our home to be open to all those children who need it. It may only ever be one child, or it could be lots over many years, but each and every one matters, and you could be a part of helping them at a truly significant point of their journey.

If you want to talk more about fostering, why not call the Home for Good enquiry line on 0300 001 0995 or visit this section of our website.

Julie (Village Faith)



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