Maxine & Martin’s story

Maxine & Martin have been fostering for 15 years and they are the latest Jay carers to be awarded our Carer of the Month. When we visited their home to present their award, we talked to Maxine about how the couple had come to foster.

“Martin & I had been thinking about fostering since we married, two years earlier. It was something we were interested in as we had always wanted to have children in our lives and had not yet had our own.”

“Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?”

“Yes, more apprehension than reservations and then there was excitement too. I recall the nervousness of our very first open evening and the information overload, that took a while to digest. We applied to our Local Authority to start with and went through, what was then, a lengthy process, although it is much quicker these days.

And then, surprise! I became pregnant with our first child – we were shocked but so happy!”

“Maxine, what did you do before you fostered?”

“Ha ha – here goes! You’ll wish you never asked!

I’ve had a variety of jobs throughout my life ranging from full time overlocker, to shoe maker, a fresh meat packer at the cattle market and a chambermaid abroad. I’ve also waitressed in restaurants and worked in food factories. I was even a part time model – this raised some eyebrows!

We moved to our new house in a small village and I changed my job, as the travelling was too far, and gained employment at a label manufacturing unit, I then worked in an office as an admin assistant.

I left this job on maternity leave and after giving birth became a Community Carer (young and old service users) and trained as a classroom assistant.”

“And Martin?”

“Martin trained as an electrician, worked in a food factory (this is where we met) progressed onto an Electrical Engineering Manager which he is still is today, as well as well as my support as a foster carer. Definitely a team effort.”

“What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?”

“Our job roles in the past reflect organisational skills, good time keeping, listening and being of a kind and caring nature. Following the company’s rules and policies. Being peace maker, being hands on when it comes to tasks and good all round “people person” with children and adults alike.

I also didn’t feel my upbringing as a child was one of the best. We both wanted better for any children around me in the future.”

“What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?”

“Making a difference to a child/young person’s life. Giving them a chance to fulfil their true potential that we could see was lacking previously.”

“What has been the most difficult part of fostering?”

“Dealing with really unruly behaviour at times and watching my own children’s reactions to that type of behaviour; things like swearing, real defiance, absconding, being destructive to themselves, others and property too at times.”

“What support do you receive from Jay?”

“If there is a problem, Jay Fostering has always been there for us as a family, as well as the child in placement.

Our meetings with our Supervising Social Worker are friendly and informal, mostly times that suit our circumstances and the child is seen in placement too.

Training is invaluable and although considered necessary, it’s also very enjoyable. I also like social side of training, where foster carers come together and share their experiences without being judged.”  

“Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?”

“Yes, as with us it works with our family lifestyle. Time is precious these days and fostering incorporates being together and traditional family values.

We have three teenagers in our house at present, one of which is a foster placement, and they are all in full-time education. Fostering gives us the flexibility to complete reports for the agency, attend meetings with the Local Authority and school too. I can also socialise with other foster carers, friends and family within school hours. We are then able to give our teenagers our full attention out of school hours, doing activities, helping with homework, attending health appointments, visiting friends and enjoying life in general.”     

Thank for sharing your fostering journey with us Maxine & Martin. You are passionate and committed foster carers and we all enjoy working with you! – Jay Fostering.

What Are Autism Spectrum Disorders? Autism and ADHD Explained

Autism spectrum disorders affect around 700,000 people in the UK, meaning that over 2.8 million people have a family member on the autism spectrum. It’s a lifelong condition that affects how people interact with others, and it can be mild or serious depending on where the person sits on the spectrum.

For families with an autistic child, everyday life can be a real challenge. Autism affects how children see, hear and feel the world around them, and different people will need different support depending on how the condition affects them.

Because autism is a spectrum condition, every child experiences it differently – and this can make it challenging for those who care for them. Foster carers can sometimes find it difficult to offer the right kind of support to autistic children in their care due to their different needs.

But, small changes and a better understanding of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can make a big difference for foster carers supporting children with autism. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on ASD – giving foster carers the help and information they need to provide the right kind of support to an autistic child in their care.

Quick Links:

What is Autism and How Is It Defined?

Autism spectrum disorder is defined as a developmental condition that affects how people view the world around them. It’s a lifelong condition that children have from birth, and, because it’s not an illness or disease, it can’t be cured.

Autism is very common, with 1 in 100 people on the autistic spectrum. Signs and symptoms of the condition vary from person to person, which is why an early diagnosis is so important for children with ASD.

For many autistic children, the condition causes the most difficulty when they’re interacting with other people. Everyday interactions can be overwhelming, and they can struggle to build a rapport with those around them – even their closest friends and family.

Diagnosing ASD early is important to ensure children get the developmental support they need from a young age. However, because it’s not a physical condition, autism can be very difficult to spot, and many people often mistake the signs for behaviours that a child will grow out of.

Diagnosing autism is very complicated, requiring many tests to define where the child sits on the spectrum. Depending on the outcome, autism specialists will suggest strategies to help the child live life to the fullest.

What Are the Most Common Signs of ASD in Children?

While children exhibit ASD in many different ways, most autistic people share common behavioural traits. As a foster carer, understanding these traits could help you identify autistic behaviours in your child.

Here, we look at the five behavioural traits which children with autism may exhibit.

Social Communication

Autistic children can find it difficult to interpret both verbal and non-verbal communication, such as tone of voice, hand gestures, facial expressions, humour and emotions. They may also struggle to communicate verbally or non-verbally. For this reason, autism specialists often suggest sign language or visual symbols as a way of communicating clearly with very young autistic children.

Social Interaction

Given the communication problems touched on above, many autistic children struggle to interact with others. They can easily misinterpret another person’s feelings, meaning or intentions, and can appear insensitive. They may seek time alone and become ‘overloaded’ by social situations, or may talk at length about their own interests, dismissing customary forms of conversation and interaction.

Repetitive Behaviour and Routines

Because autistic children can find new situations stressful and overwhelming, they sometimes enjoy a set daily routine. This helps them avoid unpredictable scenarios in which they can become confused and anxious. Even simple things like requesting the exact same breakfast every morning could indicate autistic traits.

Highly-Focused Interests

Many autistic children develop highly-focused interests from a young age – it could be music, drawing, animals, or a particular colour. Often, the interest may be unusual, and this can cause problems at school or make it difficult for them to make friends. As with repetitive behaviour, children often become fixated on a particular subject because that’s what makes them the happiest and most comfortable.

Over or Under Sensitive

Autistic children may experience sensory sensitivity, in which they grow over or under-sensitive to taste, touch, sounds, light, colour or pain. The most common type of over-sensitivity is sound, in which quiet background noises become overwhelming and difficult to block out. Whatever they become sensitive too, it’s important to avoid this where possible as continued exposure can cause anxiety or, in some cases, physical pain.

Remember, children exhibit autistic traits in many different ways, so it’s important to make a note of any behaviour you find unconventional and seek a professional diagnosis if you are concerned.

Support Strategies for Foster Carers, Parents and Guardians

Caring for a child with autism can be challenging. There are, however, several recognised strategies that can help you provide the right help and support to your child – and we’ve touched on a couple of these below.

SPELL

SPELL is the National Autistic Society’s framework for responding positively to children on the autism spectrum. It stands for Structure, Positive approaches and expectations, Empathy, Low arousal, and Links. Basically, SPELL emphasises the need to change our approach to autism, so that we can provide the right support, help, communication and interaction to everyone on the autism spectrum – whether they have ADHD or Asperger syndrome.

TEACCH

Like SPELL, TEACCH is recognised by the National Autistic Society as one of the most positive strategies parents and carers can use when interacting with an autistic child. TEACCH stands for Teaching, Expanding, Appreciating, Collaborating, and Holistic, and it prioritises building understanding around the ‘culture of autism’ and the use of visual structures to aid development, learning and communication.

Social Stories

One of the newest coping strategies recommended by the National Autistic Society, Social Stories is a series of visual stories, created by Carol Gray, which aim to help autistic children understand social situations through visual learning. Since they were released in 1991, Social Stories have proved extremely helpful in developing greater social understanding for autistic people, and families are encouraged to create their own comic strips and storyboards to help children develop their social skills.

Helpful Resources

There are lots of resources available online offering advice on how to provide help and support to children with autism. Here, we list our recommended resources for foster families:

  • National Autistic Society – The UK’s primary autism charity, offering a broad range of information and advice, as well as a confidential helpline.
  • Resources for Autism – A registered charity which aims to provide practical services for children and young people with autism.
  • Child Autism UK – The UK’s largest dedicated charity for children with autism, offering a range of support guides and advice for children and their families.
  • NHS autism support groups hub – The NHS’s autism support hub, which can help families find support groups and services in their local area.

At Jay Fostering, we provide complete training and support to all our foster carers, so they can provide an effective and supportive home for children with autism.

For more information on how to foster with us, register your interest here or call us today on 0800 0443 789  .

Leslie & Andy’s story

Congratulations to Leslie & Andy, who have been awarded our Carer of the Month for February 2019. They have been fostering with Jay for a year. When we presented Leslie with the couple’s certificate, we chatted about how they came to foster.

What made you decide to become a foster carer?

We had been talking about fostering for some time before we took the plunge. We had moved house and we only had one grown up daughter left at home. I was not happy in my job and was feeling that it was time for a change.

We felt that we could do our best for any child who came to stay with us whether it would be for a few weeks, months or years, it would not matter what their challenges were; we wanted to help them feel safe and comfortable while they were with us.

How long did you think about fostering before you applied?

About 2 years.

Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?

Yes, initially we were concerned for whether we would still get time just us ‘a couple’, but as time has gone on, we have still managed to make time as we did when our own children were younger. This time we have the support of our family and friends, which has made our experiences and the children’s experience very positive.

What did you do before you fostered?

I was a community nurse

What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?

I feel that I have a professional outlook that helps with the legal side of fostering. I have empathy, patience and I feel that I can listen well. I have always embraced continual personal development and this is ongoing in fostering, as there is lots to learn, and it has brought a new enthusiasm. I have the experience of bringing up three children of my own and I have childcare qualifications from when I left school and when I was childminding. Life as had its ups and downs and this has made me more resilient, which will help me and the children we foster.

What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?

Watching children in our care feel safe enough to play and laugh. I have also enjoyed the training which I have found very useful in caring for the children.

What has been the most difficult part of fostering?

Some of the children’s behaviour has been challenging and learning how to channel this in a new way has been difficult. Therapeutic parenting has been very helpful but it does not come naturally, as you are learning as you go.

What support do you receive from Jay?

We have had great support from Jay Fostering! They have been there throughout the year. We don’t know them all but when we speak to them on the phone or see them at training, they are always helpful and willing to spend time talking to you. We have our own Supervising Social Worker who does supervision with us every 4 weeks, and she has been fantastic! She has supported us through many areas, giving us advice with difficulties with the children, helping with Local Authority Social Workers and she has been there on the end of the phone whenever we need her.

The training has been really good too; there is opportunity to do a lot of different study days and it has all been relevant and well presented by enthusiastic lecturers with years of experience themselves. I have enjoyed all of them and learnt a lot from them.

Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?

We would recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone who felt that they could offer a safe, happy home to a child. You just cannot imagine how rewarding it can be until you do it. There are times of utter joy and complete sadness in equal measures but it is an absolutely fantastic thing to do. Thank you Jay Fostering, for helping us to become foster carers!

And thank you for becoming foster carers with us Leslie & Andy! It is a pleasure working with you both.

 

So glad we kept sisters together | How fostering siblings works for us

To mark Fostering February, we asked Michael to tell his story of 12 months since fostering siblings.

Fostering siblings

To mark Fostering February, we asked Michael to tell his story of 12 months since fostering siblings.

It’s just over a year since we welcomed sisters M__ and E__ into our home — in the early hours of one winter morning.

Coming from an inner city environment, the girls were understandably unsure at first about our countryside location.

Today, they’re perfectly happy outdoors or playing with our ‘pack’ of four pugs — and are now living with us as a permanent placement.

Fostered sisters with dogs

But we didn’t get to this point as a family overnight — once me and my wife Louise decided we wanted to foster, we had a lot of research to do.

Starting our fostering siblings journey

One of our oldest friends has been a foster parent for years, so we knew what a difference it could make to vulnerable children.

When we started looking into it, we spoke to a number of IFA’s — but it wasn’t until we got in touch with our current agency that it felt ‘right’.

They gave the impression of a ‘family’ environment — friendly contact, helpful information and a lovely initial visit.

It’s been a learning curve — we were apprehensive about our final panel meeting but needn’t have been.

Same with the first LAC meeting we went to — lots of new people, plenty to take in — but not scary at all once you’re there.

And we quickly revised our initial aim not to foster anyone older than our sons, R__ and M__, instead deciding to assess placements on their own merits.

We’re glad we did, as the girls are benefitting from having brothers — and vice versa — plus the age gaps aren’t that big anyway.

Fostered siblings playing

Although neither of the girls were in education when they came to us, we got to work enrolling them in local schools.

While waiting for their places to be confirmed, I was able to spend time with them — I’m self employed and mainly work from home.

And although time with the dogs and enjoying various craft activities was great, it was a relief when the girls were able to join their new schools.

Both sisters have flourished — especially considering how much school they’ve missed out on — and E__ is predicted top grades in every subject.

Making new memories – keeping siblings together

It’s not all work though, we’re a very ‘doing’ family — all of the kids have had a go at steering our canal boat during trips away.

Fostered siblings in the snow

And you’ll often find me up above the treetops — I’ve got a microlight aircraft and also fly powered parachutes.

Louise and I both qualified as pilots years ago in the US and we love getting up high and enjoying the views of Rutland Water and the surrounding countryside.

E__ has already been up for a flight — and we’re even working on persuading our social worker to strap in when she visits during warmer weather!

And now we’ve sorted out the girls’ passports, we can’t wait for our first family holiday abroad — Sri Lanka this Easter.

Giving more children a chance

This last year has been fantastic — the girls are as good as gold and we love them to bits — I would recommend fostering to anyone.

The training has been excellent, we’ve been given all the support we’ve needed and everyone we’ve met has been a huge help.

And our social worker Paula is great — nothing is ever too much trouble for her — but she’s also the one who told us the most heartbreaking thing.

Fostered siblings family

At the ‘Skills to Foster’ course we attended, we found out not only how many kids need help — but also how many a month unfortunately can’t be placed.

Louise and I were lucky to have the childhoods we did — and we’ve done what we can to make sure the girls have the best we can give them.

But it’s important to share our experience — so other people will see how much the girls have enriched our family by coming to live with us.

And hopefully someone will be inspired to change a vulnerable young person’s life — and change their own at the same time.

There’s no better time than now, during Fostering February.

If you’d like to know more about how you could help brothers and sisters who need each other stay together, please contact us online or ring 0800 0443 789.

 

Linda & Shaun’s story

Linda and Shaun have been foster carers for 10 years but only with Jay Fostering for the last two years. Having been awarded the ‘Jay Carer of the Month’ for December, we recently chatted to Linda about the couple’s motivation to become foster carers and how they feel about fostering today.

What made you decide to become a foster carer?

‘We had a friend who had been fostering for some years, who recommended it to us. Our own two children had flown the nest and we felt we could offer a secure and happy home to children in care.’

How long did you think about fostering before you applied?

‘We chatted about it on and off for about 6 months and then we decided to take the plunge and look for an independent foster care provider. We were with one agency for nearly 8 years but became unhappy. Then an old friend recommended Jay Fostering to us and we decided to transfer.’

Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied originally?

‘Mainly about how our son would handle it (he was only 13 at the time), but we were able to have a preference to care for children younger than he was.’

What did you do before you fostered?

‘I was a Nursery Nurse, working full-time in reception class in a primary school for nearly 20 years. Shaun worked in sales, so he became the main carer, which he did very successfully for 4 years until I decided I wanted to do it full time and become the primary carer! Whilst he’d been at home he studied, which enabled him to have a career change and he now works part-time.’

What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?

‘We work well as a team and have learned to take on Therapeutic Parenting, which is very different to the way we parented our own children, but very useful, given the complexities of some of the children we have fostered.

We are creative and love to provide children with new experiences and challenges in life. We have a good understanding of child development and how to enhance this and although some past placements have been tough, we’ve learned different strategies and are constantly soaking up new information.’

What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?

‘Seeing the children thrive when they are given new experiences. Many children in care haven’t had positive parenting and have missed out on certain areas of development. We can promote this development by providing opportunities – woodland walks, painting, play-dough, spending time playing together and being positive. In this way, we get something out of it too! At the moment we’re working through “50 Things to do Before You’re 11 ¾”, compiled by The National Trust, which is lots of fun!

It is also very rewarding to help children get in touch with their emotions and then encourage them to understand and deal with those emotions.’

What has been the most difficult part of fostering?

‘When we were with our old agency, we had some Parent & Child placements, and when some of the young parents made bad choices, I just didn’t get it and I found it hard to deal with. We hadn’t had any training on it and were the first carers in our old agency to have Parent and Child placements. I’m sure that the specific training that Jay Fostering provides, would have helped a lot, rather than learning as we went along, but I do feel we gained a huge amount of experience and were able to show parents how families can work.

Some of our other placements have been children with very challenging behaviours and it has sometimes been hard to see how we could make a difference, which is hard for all of us, but we have been well supported through these times and come out the other side!’

What support do you receive from Jay?

‘Lorna, our Supervising Social Worker, is brilliant! We couldn’t hope for anyone more supportive. She’s there when we need her and understands where we’re coming from. She’s really encouraging.

I attended the Carer Academy training which was excellent (as are all Jay Fostering’s courses!), and am looking forward to more in the future.

I am friends with other carers from Jay, and we meet over coffee to put the world to rights!! I think it’s really important that carers support each other where possible and Jay carers do this all the time.’

Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?

‘We are constantly recommending becoming a foster carer, and recommending Jay. Having been with another agency in the North for nearly 8 years we have seen how supportive and fair Jay Fostering agency are in comparison. They not only provide us as ample opportunities to meet and train, but also encourage children in care to meet up at different exciting events.’

Thank you, Linda & Shaun! We feel very lucky to have you as our foster carers – Jay Fostering

Introduction to attachment and foster care | Joe Nee

Expert in attachment theory Joe Nee highlights some of the impact a child’s attachment experience can have on them and their foster families.

 

As children develop, from conception to adulthood, they need support from those responsible for protecting them during this journey.

When going through the various stages in this developmental process their experience of attachment plays a crucial role.

This continues throughout the young person’s development, from absolute dependence, to independence and autonomy as an adult.

And the different needs of children at each stage demand differing responses from those charged with their care.

Each develops at their own pace — from being unable to let their main carer out of their sight to the ‘terrible twos’, ‘sibling rivalry’ the ‘lazy teenager’ and so on.

Studying how a child attaches to their parents/carers helps us understand how this process is affected by the nature and quality of our early experiences.

This is particularly true of children who have experienced early trauma and/or neglect.

Children and Attachment

All children need to develop a secure emotional attachment to their parents or their primary/main carer at an early stage.

Young people may seem ‘unable’ to learn, or understand consequences, behaving in ways that seem to guarantee they won’t get what they want.

They may even feel responsible for their problems and those of their parents, believing themselves to be ‘bad’ or deserving of punishment.

The quality of the attachment relationship a child develops with their key caregiver is a good indicator of their ability to cope and adapt.

And as the child grows, this relationship means they continue to view this caregiver as a potential source of comfort in any stressful situations.

Unfortunately, this can continue to be the case even if the caregiver proves to be abusive, neglectful, fails to protect them, or their life seems to be in chaos.

For foster parents, this can clearly prove a challenge, as the child seeks comfort and approval from whichever caregiver to whom they have been attached.

 

The effects of attachment on foster parents

Attachment relationships are a biological inevitability, designed to ensure a child’s protection and survival.

But a child or young person’s ability to attach and form a bond with a caregiver often depends on the type of care they received from others earlier in their life.

It’s important that foster parents get appropriate support to promote healthy attachments for the children and young they care for in their family.

And where young people are removed from birth parents permanently, it’s vital that the appropriate matching and training takes place.

Foster parents looking after children who have disorganised or extremely anxious attachments can experience similar emotional upheaval.

Of course, fostering can be challenging at any time — but the stress involved in caring for some children can have a serious impact on the placement success.

In such situations, support from social and/or professional networks is typically a major factor in alleviating carer stress.

Particularly important is access to timely and effective support from social workers and other professionals.

Research has shown that the absence of this can exacerbate the strain on carers and their families.

 

Meeting a young person’s needs

Some younger children with a history of maltreatment can respond quickly to changes in their emotional environments, forming secure attachments to carers.

But research and experience tells us that this will not always be the case with certain children.

Some appear to resist support, continue to distrust adults and seem unable to seek care or comfort when distressed.

In these cases, if foster parents wait for a ‘signal’ or sign from a child to provide care, the young person’s needs may remain completely unmet.

We know that looked after children benefit greatly if they can develop secure attachments with their caregivers.

To enable this for those with attachment or trauma issues, foster parents can aim to engage with them at their emotional age (rather than chronological).

In order to ensure that young people with attachment issues are cared for most effectively during foster placements, several measures can help:

  • Capacity of prospective carers to recognise/tolerate difficult behaviour and remain sensitive/responsive to a child’s needs should be evaluated
  • Regular training and support to ensure carers can reflect on a child’s behaviour with reference to their needs rather than react immediately to their behaviour
  • Carer access to reflective space and non-judgmental listening to promote sensitive, responsive care and alleviate the strain on all concerned

Any professionals, including foster parents, who are asked to care for or work with looked after children should have basic but specific training.

This should concern the impact of early attachment issues and trauma on those children.

And the support available should be proactive — not crisis driven or occurring only when stress levels are unacceptable.

 

Attachment and teenagers

A young person may appear to be settled, happy and thriving in a foster family environment.

But one of the triggers that can disrupt the situation for all concerned can be the onset of puberty.

The stresses and confusion for a young person during this time and their teenage years, can pose problems in terms of changing behaviour.

Mother and teenage daughter having an arguument

Another potential influential factor is young people’s vulnerability to harmful external influences.

A teen’s early experiences of mistrust, inappropriate attachment and confusion about relationships can make them an obvious target.

The potential threat of controlling relationships, sexual exploitation or gang associations increase for those with an inability to manage social relationships.

 

Learn more about attachment

Understanding the impact of attachment and how it can affect the fostering experience for young people and carers is important.

Find out more about the available training and support available by using the bibliography below, contacting Jay Fostering, or see further resources on attachment from the Fostering Network.

 

About the author

Joe Nee is an independent psychology professional with extensive experience in the education and child protection sectors.

He has worked with local authorities, government departments, the police, prisons and voluntary organisations throughout the UK.

As a renowned authority on child protection, families, fostering and adoption, his expertise as a consultant is both insightful and invaluable.

 

Bibliography

  • Dozier M, Albus K and Bates B (2001) Attachment for infants in foster care: the role of caregiver state of mind, Child Development, 72, 1467-1477
  • Dozier M, Peloso E, Lewis E, Laurenceau J P and Levine S (2008) Effects of an attachment-based intervention on the cortisol production of infants and toddlers in foster care, Dev Psychopathology, 20, 845-859
  • Fonagy,P. and Target, M. (2002) Early Intervention and the Development of Self Regulation. Psychoanalytic Inquiry. V 22,Issue 3
  • Furnival, J. Practice with looked after children and young people IRISS Insights no.10. May 2010
  • Hughes, Dan (2006) Building the Bonds of Attachment
  • Holmes, J (2001) The Search for the Secure Base: Attachment Theory and Psychotherapy. Routledge
  • Hosking G and Walsh I (2005) Wave Report 2005: Violence and what to do about it, Croydon Wave Trust
  • Kochanska G, Barry RA, Stellern SA and O’Bleness JJ (2009) Early Attachment Organization Moderates the Parent Child Mutually Coercive Pathway to Children’s Antisocial Conduct, Child Development, 80, 1288-1300
  • Millward R, Kennedy E, Towlson K and Minnis H (2006) Reactive attachment disorder in looked-after children Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, 11(4)
  • Steele M (2006) The ‘added value’ of attachment theory and research for clinical work in adoption and foster care, in J Kenrick (ed) Creating New Families Therapeutic approaches to fostering adoption and kinship care, London: Karnac Books
  • WilPerry B and Hambrick E (2008) The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, Reclaiming children and youth,17(3)
  • son K (2006) Can foster carers help children resolve their emotional and behavioural difficulties? Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 11(4), 495-511
  • Zeanah C (2001) Evaluation of a preventive intervention for maltreated infants and toddlers in foster care, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(2), 214-221

Dawn & Jack’s story

Dawn & Jack have been fostering with Jay for 6 years, although Dawn’s career in fostering began much earlier with a different agency.

Before she met Jack, Dawn was a host family for students and asylum seekers and she feels that it was a ‘natural progression’ for her to move into a fostering role. As a couple, they felt that they ‘had a lot of love and care to give to children’ and Dawn suggested to Jack that they consider fostering as a couple.

Dawn had no reservations at this point as she had had previous experience but it was a ‘whole new entity’ to Jack and the couple spent several months discussing all the aspects of the fostering task before Jack felt he was ‘100% sure’ that they should apply.

They each bring their own personal qualities to fostering but we asked Dawn to name some of them for us. She said, ‘organisational and administration skills, problem solving techniques, empathy and the ability to teach children and young people the life skills that they will need to move forward with their lives. It is important for them to have boundaries and guidelines in order to know right from wrong. It also helps that we both have a good sense of humour, etiquette, decorum and diplomacy skills.’

The couple really enjoy making a difference to the lives of the children and young people in their care but it is not always an easy task. It can be difficult to get the children to open up about their lives before coming into care, to enable them to get the help they need. It is also hard to get across the ‘dangers of the misuse of the internet’ and ‘helping them to understand why boundaries and guidelines are put into place’ when they may not have had them before.

‘But the support we receive from Jay is excellent. We have a fantastic Supervising Social Worker, who gives great advice and really listens to us. We have access to excellent training and we know other Jay foster carers who are always available for a chat when we need it.

We asked Dawn & Jack if they would recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else? ‘Yes! It is wonderful to look back and see how the young people in our care have blossomed and how their self-confidence has improved over time. It really is wonderful to make a difference!’

‘We love working with Jay Fostering. They are a great agency. They listen and help and always give sound advice.’

Thank you, Dawn & Jack. We love working with you too! Long may that continue, as your commitment to the fostering task is admirable – Jay Fostering.

Cheryl & Emma’s story

For the last 5 years, Cheryl & Emma have been fostering with Jay. We are always interested in how our carers came to foster. Here is their story:

What made you decide to become a foster carer?

“It is something that we had discussed in passing many times. Then we met a foster family who had a static caravan in close proximity to ours and once we got talking it became very clear that the previous passing conversations were now going to be life changing conversations. After speaking with carers and the children they had in placement it soon was clear that fostering was what we wanted to do.”

How long did you think about fostering before you applied?

“Emma had periodically thought about fostering since her daughter had been born 12 years ago; Cheryl since marrying Emma in 2010.”

Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?

“Yes lots, mainly around the unknown of the process to become a foster carer. Who to speak to, where to go for the information to help decide if it was right for our family. Would we have to finish working? How would we manage financially if left without a placement for a length of time.? How it would impact on our birth children and our relationship, if at all. What support would be available during the application process and after?”

What did you do before you fostered?

“Emma was an Activities Co-ordinator and Holistic Therapist at a specialist care home. Cheryl was a Registered Home Manager of a specialist care home but left in 2016 to become full time foster carer along with Emma.”

What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?

“Life experience, an understanding of emotions and the impact of trauma. We are able to nurture personalities to help young people understand what being part of a family is like. This helps the young people we look after grow and move in to independent living. We also have lots of clinical knowledge.”

What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?

“Helping the young person overcome their daily challenges and the smile on their face when they do.”

What has been the most difficult part of fostering?

“Frustration plays a big part when waiting for decisions or appointments for the young people especially if there are a lot of professionals involved.”

What support do you receive from Jay?

“Excellent support all round, there is always someone on the end of the phone 24/7. Everyone is supportive especially our Supervising Social Worker; it feels like an extended family around us. Training is informative and purposeful and in particular the Nottingham support group and network is amazing.”

Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?

“Yes, we would and we often promote being foster carers with Jay within our family and friend circle. The good times and rewards definitely outweigh the difficult times; you know you are making a difference no matter how big or small to the young person who is living with you and you are giving them something that they have never had or may have never experienced.”

Cheryl & Emma added:

“People should not be put off fostering with Jay, by the location of their head office as support groups and training venues are all local within your area. You are made to feel part of a bigger family.”

Thank you for sharing your story with us Cheryl & Emma. Your commitment to the young people in your care is exemplary – Jay Fostering.

Maria & Israel’s story

Maria & Israel have been fostering with Jay for the last 6 years. They have previously been awarded Carer of the Month with us so we asked, “how did you get into fostering?”

What made you decide to become a foster carer?

“Before fostering, we always looked after 16-18 year olds in supported accommodation. After seeing the trauma and the devastation some of the children were left with, we wanted to make a difference earlier.”

How long did you think about fostering before you applied?

“Probably around 5 years.”

Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?

“Yes absolutely. It’s quite daunting having strangers come into your home, even if they are children, as you don’t always get to meet them first.”

What did you do before you fostered?

“We have had experience with working with 16-18 year olds who were leaving care.”

What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?

“We like to think that our time in the leaving care sector prepared us for most things within fostering. We have an in-depth knowledge and empathy with these children, which can help them to know that somebody does get them, even when they are sometimes unsure themselves. We have encountered self harm, ADHD, Autism and attachment.”

What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?

“Seeing the children change, we love taking them and doing new things with them and seeing the light come on and their faces shine.”

What has been the most difficult part of fostering?

“No time off, you are always on the job.”

What support do you receive from Jay?

“Our social worker Claire is always on hand through difficult times. She needs social worker of the month too!!”

Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?

“Absolutely there is no better job than raising our children to become strong adults. And the smiles make it all worth it!”

Thank you Maria & Israel for all of your hard work and commitment to the children in your care – Jay Fostering.

Jennie & Michael’s story

Congratulations to Jennie & Michael for being awarded Jay Foster Carer of the Month for September 2018. They have been fostering with Jay for the last year, so when we presented Jennie with the couple’s award, we took the time to chat to her about how they had come into fostering.

What made you decide to become a foster carer?

“As a couple, we have had different life experiences that we felt would be great to bring to the role as Foster Carers. We have two spare bedrooms, love children and love being busy. When we found out more about becoming Foster Carers, we wanted that feeling you get from doing something rewarding and making a difference in somebody else’s life. Nobody asks to be brought into this world and everybody should feel safe a secure with the best opportunities in life, to make their lives what they want them to be. We felt we could make that happen and have so much more love to give.”

How long did you think about fostering before you applied?

“Sadly, about two years and wish we had done it sooner!”

Did you have any reservations about fostering before you applied?

“The only reservation we had was how our own two children would adjust to it.”

What did you do before you fostered?

“I worked in a call centre & Michael was in the public sector.”

What skills do you feel that you bring to the role of a foster carer?

  • Having children of our own, we have experience of looking after children
  • Multitasking!
  • Empathy
  • Financial knowledge (setting them up for independence)
  • Domestic skills
  • Resilience
  • Unconditional love
  • And we have gained additional skills from the training courses Jay Fostering provides!

What is the most enjoyable thing about fostering?

“Seeing the progress being made by the child/young person and the feeling that gives us. We spend a lot more time together as a family than we ever did before, which is something you can’t put a price on.”

What has been the most difficult part of fostering?

“Fostering can be a little bit like a rollercoaster at times. Reaching the point when the child/Young person is ready to move on can be a proud moment, as well as an upsetting one when you have to say goodbye to them.”

What support do you receive from Jay?

“Where do I start?! The training offered to us by Jay is excellent. We have learnt so much and there are lots more courses in the diary yet! It sounds a little cliché, but Jay feels like an extension to our family. Everybody is supportive and friendly. They will listen to you moan when you need to, because let’s face it, who doesn’t need to sometimes? They will cry with you and laugh with you. That goes for our Supporting Social Worker as well as fellow Foster Carers. Nobody has ever made us feel anything other than important to them.”

Would you recommend becoming a foster carer to anyone else?

“Definitely, in a heartbeat. It hasn’t just opened up our hearts that bit more but it has opened up our minds too. Although it is not a requirement, I decided to become a full-time carer and give up working whilst my husband still works. I am there for our own children and those who become part of our family, during all of the school holidays and that is time we can’t get back. We were apprehensive about the potential impact it would have on our own children, which we need not have been. It has been nothing but positive for our children and they look forward to “making more special friends” as they say. It has to be said that it is largely down to the amazing matching Jay do, for which they are well known.”

Thank you for fostering with us Jennie & Michael! You really deserve the Carer of the Month award.