Did you know there are many types of foster carers? There are indeed those who provide young people in care with a secure, stable home throughout childhood, and if possible, up to the age of 21.
However, there are also full time carers who provide a temporary home to young people until a decision is made regarding their future; there are those who can take children for brief periods to support full time carers; and there are those who offer short term, planned care, usually to a child with additional support needs, whose families often face extra demands and need support of this kind.
*Beth and Stuart became long term foster carers in January 1991 but the couple had spoken about doing it for years.
With their own kids already grown up and flown the nest, the couple felt the time was right.
Beth said: “You don’t really know if you can do it until you start. When we started we got a lot of short term children from two days to three months - we were busy all the time with young people coming and going.
“We learned a lot as we had children of all ages and from all backgrounds. We have had children who have come either for short term respite, emergency and pre adoption. Some keep in touch and we have had a lot of local children who we see about the town.”
The couple have always felt that routine is very important for everybody. Beth said: “I have always been “strict but fair” and this is what one of the children we fostered said and she is now a mum. If there are no boundaries there are problems. If you are going to let them live in the chaos they have previously lived in then they could have just stayed there, so you are helping them be calm, have routines and settle down.
“If I’m out with some of the children and they see another child misbehaving they often comment – showing that they are learning right from wrong and know how to behave themselves. We have found this approach works for most children. You have to remember you are never alone. Social work are there and another important thing is your support group.
“There is a positive in everything. Every child is different they can be the same age, come from similar backgrounds, but they are very different. Some are funny, some are quiet and it can take some a long time to settle. What works with one won’t necessarily work with the other but just keep going and think of something else.”
In the 23 years the couple have been fostering, they have looked after 103 children, some of whom more than once.
“We are happy we are carers,” she said. “We have met lots of children, lots of interesting people and we have enjoyed doing it. We have laughed and we have cried, we have had good times and bad times, we want to keep going and do 25 years and then retire….. well maybe!
*Names have been changed to protect identities.