The lessons I’ve learned from fostering

Pat was a teacher for many years, but becoming a foster carer in her retirement has taught her so much.

I taught in a primary school in inner-city Nottingham for many years. Most of the children I taught had English as their second language, and many were also from asylum seeking families. Despite being the teacher, I learned a lot from my students. Through them I began to understand a little of what it is like to live in a strange new country, and how trauma can affect families.

When I turned 60, I took the big step to retire from teaching, and was praying to discover what God wanted from me next. It was around the time that the Syrian refugee crisis dominated the news headlines. As I was browsing Facebook, I saw a post from Home for Good asking people to consider fostering unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. At that moment I just knew God was calling me to find out more. I filled in the online form and after an conversation, Home for Good referred me to Nottinghamshire County Council. I received their excellent training and was approved quite quickly.

Not long after this, a 16-year-old boy from Syria arrived in my home at 9pm on a Thursday evening. Hassan was dirty, hungry and scared. He had arrived in the back of a lorry and was wandering the streets when the police picked him up. He spoke no English and I spoke no Arabic but through an interpreter I could reassure him he was safe. Hassan stayed with me for 18 months until he was ready to become independent.

When Hassan left, a 16-year-old boy from Sudan arrived. He had suffered severe trauma on his journey and needed mental health support. Due to his experiences, his behaviour was often challenging but I was able to care for him for a year until it was time for him to move into semi-independent accommodation. He is now doing well.

Most recently, a 15-year-old girl from Vietnam has joined us and has really become a part of the family. She will stay with me now for as long as she wants.

Fostering has really enriched my life. Sharing stories with these young people, learning about their cultures and traditions, and welcoming them into my family has been a God-given blessing. There have, of course, been some challenging times, but I have never felt that I have to cope alone. My supervising social worker and the children’s social workers have always been supportive and helpful, and my church family at St. Mark’s have really welcomed and included these young people into our community. And my faith in Jesus helps me keep everything in perspective, knowing that I am doing His will in His strength.

I feel that moving from teaching to fostering has taught me so much. New recipes – less ‘meat and two veg’ and more halal curries – and new cultures. But I have also learned of the bravery and resilience of asylum-seeking young people. And I have become more acutely aware of the need for foster carers for so many children. Five years on from that first placement, I have no regrets about my decision to foster. If you feel God is calling you to foster – go for it!

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Written by Pat


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