The difference a foster carer can make
The difference a foster carer can make to the life of a young person often amazes me.
If a child has behaviour issues, because of previous circumstances, it can be hard going for foster carers. But when they are able to rise to that challenge the impact can be profound. We recently witnessed such an impact and a turnaround in behaviour which I’d like to share with you.
Around two years ago, we had a 15 year-old girl referred to us who we knew had behaviour difficulties. I will call her Kerry during this blog, although that is not her real name.
Kerry had moved from another area in the country and was extremely reluctant to live with her foster carer. In the first few weeks she was regularly missing from home, she did not attend school and frequently tested the boundaries her foster carer laid down.
Over the last two years, however, her behaviour has completely transformed. Kerry has gained her GCSEs, has been presented with a Duke of Edinburgh award and become an advocate for the rights of young people, within the Perpetual Fostering children’s forum.
Now 17-years-old, Kerry has moved into semi-independent living but before moving into her new home last Friday she wrote a few words for her foster carer. They read:
“You were the best cook,
“You never tried to be my mother, you weren’t my mother… but you really did feel like a mother to me.
“You always made me smile no matter how bad things were.
“If there’s one thing I will take with me, it’s never give up on your dreams and work hard to achieve them.
“Don’t look at me on Friday coz I will cry.”
The turnover around in two years was dramatic.
When foster carers are in the thick of things, sometimes it can be hard for them to see and appreciate the positive impact they are making. Although a note like Kerry’s goes someone way to illustrate the difference a foster carer can make.
Kerry’s behaviour was not a surprise to her foster carer when she arrived. We all knew Kerry would be a handful and that a foster carer capable of meeting Kerry’s individual requirements was needed. We were able to find that foster carer and we prepared her for what was to come – and she rose to the challenge.
By developing a strong relationship with Kerry, the number of times she went missing occurred less and less – until this behaviour petered out entirely. By meeting regularly with education professional, she also arranged for Kerry to receive alternative school provision more suitable to her needs. This ultimately help her gain her qualifications.
At times it was exhausting for Kerry’s foster carer, and we did provide her with some respite support, but she was determined to make a difference and that commitment paid off.
Not every child that comes into fostering is as difficult as Kerry was, but I believe her story shows the difference a foster carer can make – especially when that foster carer is well prepared and receives the appropriate support of their fostering agency.