Foster carers diary: Foster parent Mike writes about a family day out.
Foster care at Rainbow Fostering is all about being hugely committed to the idea that all our foster carers commit themselves to giving the children they care for a stimulating, memorable experience. This means participating in the wide range of activities that we provide – as well as days out and trips. Childhood is a special time. All children deserve to have happy memories to look back on: another foster carer provides a snapshot of how such memories are made.
Foster carers understand that feeling when summertime comes round again. Seems to come quicker every year. Also seems to get louder every year too! Soon as the dawn chorus starts, my wife and I can hear the kids leap out of bed and start running around the house. Our place is full of kids. That’s the way we like it. We’ve two of our own and now two more have come to stay. Keeping everyone entertained over the summer is a big ask. Luckily we live near London, so if you’re a fostering family, there’s plenty on tap. Too much it seems sometimes. We have two brothers staying with us at the moment. They’re with us on a short term basis. Nice lads. one is eight and the other is eleven. We’ve got our own boys who are twelve and ten so you can imagine the noise and the mess. But we all muck in and everything just seems to get done. Ann, my wife is the one who’s really in charge. Fostering children is something we have now been doing for four years. This is our first sibling group. And we’re enjoying the challenge! It’s certainly that. But what is so satisfying is sharing our home with them has meant that they have been kept together. Ann and I couldn’t bear the thought of our two boys being separated. Being foster parents is something we had always wanted to do. My wife was in care when she was a child. It’s something that we sort of felt we ought to do. Knowing her has certainly made me aware of how fortunate I was to grow up in a loving family. So easy to take for granted. But as soon as you start fostering, you realise just how many sad situations there are out there. Worst of all, children are so ill-equipped to deal with family break-up. That’s because they’re too young to understand. Anyway, that’s the downside. As any foster carer will tell you, there are some amazingly rewarding times too. One of the most enjoyable things you can do as a family is organise plenty of days out through the summer. We’ve already started. It’s great fun! A mix of excitement and pandemonium. When you start fostering, you are told that foster parents have to be prepared to give children normal lives. They mean by that, an experience pretty close to your average child growing up with their own parents. Normal is different for everyone. When we were first approved, we were confident we had our own version of ‘normal’ and that would have a lot to offer. When people first start fostering its easy to think you have to start behaving very differently. Being extra attentive. But no one can keep that up indefinitely. I guess everyone just has to find their own level. And I guess it’s more likely to be more worrying to start with if you don’t have children of your own. But foster carers we know who fall into this category have told us the training and support the agency provides really helps with their confidence. With us, all the children that have stayed with us had really had just to ‘climb aboard’. We’re a busy family with lots of interests. Caring for the children who come to stay with us means making them quickly feel a part of everything that’s going on in our home. That’s small things, from making sure that all the plates are taken into the kitchen after a meal – to the bigger fun things like trips out. That’s what we believe works: if our foster child feels they are a welcome addition to what is a busy, bustling family, they soon feel at home.
Fostering our own approach to caring.
Ann and I have been fostering long enough now to realise this sense of belonging and participation is what foster kids want most. Many arrive in care feeling special for all the wrong reasons. Our approach is that no one in our family is more special than anyone else. We all value and respect one another. This vibe, feels for us, just like normal. Foster children living with us, pretty soon feel they are just a part of something bigger. Part of a family. And that’s what they most need. Come to think of it, that’s what we all need. Adults as well – to feel we belong.
So today, we’re all up early. The house is reasonably tidy: always something we ensure we all help with before a family outing. It’s a good habit to get into. Sort of justifies the ‘treat’. Colin and Andy, the siblings we are fostering were awake before any of us. Ann and I heard them downstairs getting some breakfast cereal. Then our boys, Pete and John, joined them and the noise level shot up – especially when we heard a bowl crash to the floor. Never mind, accidents happen in a house with four noisy and active boys in it. And in a way that’s what we like: children should definitely ‘be seen and heard’. A bit of natural exuberance is all part of childhood and that way. At least as foster parents, we know that they are fit and active.
Our fostering agency provides us with great training opportunities for all sorts of things. One of the most valuable recently was one all about nutrition and the importance of kids being active. It was a great course to attend, as it taught us that if children are overweight from a young age this can have very serious effects in later life. Made us stop and think – and think about our own health which is no bad thing! And the training is very sociable – the chance for us to meet up with and swap stories with other foster carers. Fostering means being aware of so many things. It’s a tremendous responsibility – but one we relish as no two days are the same and Ann and I both feel we are learning all the time. And you realise that we all, as foster carers, often face similar types of problems. Because of all the opportunities we have to train, Ann will soon be starting a course on therapeutic fostering. Providing this kind of foster care is something she is very keen to find out about. She feels it provides a great opportunity to build her skills and feel she can be professional about the fostering she wants to offer.
And being foster carers has enabled us to be very proud of our sons. They have got used to the idea of sharing. Didn’t always go well to start with, but we can see just how generous their natures are becoming. And it’s not, as any foster carer will tell you, just about sharing their possessions, they have to share their mum and dad as well.
Here’s a tip for all you foster carers out there. Planning a day out provides a great opportunity for a family to come together. An agreement has to be reached. Everyone has their own ideas: what it is they want to do. But there has to be a compromise – which means listening and accepting. It’s a negotiation. – which is a definite life skill. Deciding on a trip is also a great way of making everyone feel that they have a right to contribute. And everyone has to do a little bit of research – talking to friends – so a lot can be pout into a trip even before you set off.
So after much discussion – some quite loud, making me think the next door neighbours would start giving us their thoughts, and maybe even want to come along – we reached agreement. ‘Shrek’, or to be more precise ‘Shrek’s Adventure’ was the agreed choice. Would it be as much of an adventure as fostering, I quietly mused to myself? Anyway, after we had all boarded the magical ‘4D’ flying bus – driven by a donkey – and happily completed our quest by successfully finding Shrek, we were reliably informed we are all ‘heroes’. Did that sound too straight forward? Well before receiving that accolade we’d navigated our way through a swamp, met Princess Fiona – along with assorted characters that included a fortune teller, Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, Muffin Man, Pinocchio, Puss in Boots and finally Shrek himself.
When we all finally got home, exhausted, we agreed it had been a great day out. Colin and Andy – along with our boys – had some great pictures of what was a memorable family trip. And, as foster carers will know, any family outing provides a great talking point within a family that lasts for days.
For information about this particular fostering families adventure visit –
*Names changed to protect privacy
Could you do what Mike and Ann do? Rainbow would like to hear from you.
If Mike’s glimpse into the world of foster care struck a chord with you, you might possibly have what it takes to be a foster carer. Make a real difference to the lives of children can be tough going, but there are some great times and many happy memories to be had. Don’t forget, we provide round the clock support and lots of scope for training for all our foster carers. We work to build the parenting skills of all our foster carers. This is so they can deal with the emotional demands children can place on them. Children in foster care come in all shapes and sizes – children with disabilities need foster parents as well as youngsters who have experienced neglect and/or abuse.
The foster care system can seem a daunting place for people when they first apply. After all, it’s a big decision to go into fostering. A foster family with Rainbow will always be able to count upon our commitment to providing the best support. This means we offer plenty of respite care.
For an informal chat about beginning a career in foster care, call Rainbow on 020 8427 3355 or 0330 311 2845. There is no pressure or obligation. We will just do our best to give you all the information you need to base a decision on. We are particularly keen to find people who are interested in fostering siblings so they can be kept together. Sadly, there is a shortage of foster carers able to do this. Find out more by visiting our page:
and for an interesting blog: http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/the-qualities-for-a-good-foster-carer/