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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