After having two children of my own, along with working professionally with children and young people in a teaching capacity for many years, I wanted to become a foster carer. I believed that I had impacted on many in a positive way and fostering would give me the opportunity to take that positive impact to the next level with the most deserving children out there. I know that many children do not get the opportunities that they deserve due to negative circumstances and I strongly believe that nobody’s past should decide their future. Once my son moved out, I started my fostering journey.
I found that Somerset Council had introduced a ‘Step Forward’ plan to give children currently in long term residential care the opportunity to become part of a family. It is a specialist placement with often some of the most traumatised children, however the child has progressed to a stage where they are ready to be integrated back into a family setting. Unlike most foster placements, a transition plan is set up and followed by all parties prior to the child moving in. These plans are generally 2-3 months in duration and involves various visits and sleepovers giving both the child and the carer the opportunity to really attach to each other prior to the actual move date, thus reducing the risk of placement breakdown.
I researched various foster agencies (initially I had no idea there were so many!), narrowed it down to 3 and after lengthy interviews with each of them I was invited to apply. I chose TACT for a number of reasons. I was drawn to the fact that they are the largest UK based registered charity, with profits going back into the company to support both the children in their care as well as the foster carers. It’s clear to me TACT is a child-focused agency who appear to be moving with the times and embracing newer therapies such as therapeutic parenting. The training, support and development of carers are valued highly. From the start, they were the most efficient and friendly agency I approached.
My favourite thing about being a foster carer is seeing my looked-after child smile, say that she loves me and knowing that I am making a positive impact on her life. I love identifying talents and aspirations a child in my care has and helping them to flourish. I have really enjoyed being a ‘Step Forward’ foster carer specifically. It makes a huge difference to the child as it’s the only foster placement that gives you the chance to really get to the know the child and form a strong bond prior to the full-time placement starting. You have the time to make changes and undertake additional training to help support the child’s particular needs.
Being a specialist placement, you get additional support in the form of other professionals, including:
- A link foster carer – Someone that has already built a relationship with the child, taking them on days out etc., prior to the transition plan starting. The link carer will continue to meet with the child for days out and sleepovers once the child moves in and is support and respite for both the child and the carer.
- Therapists – Are available and continue to see the child. They are there to provide individual support for both the child and carer.
- Senior Supervising Social Workers – Are in place to oversee the project.
- Regular monitoring meetings throughout the transition phase to ensure all is going well, and where any concerns are addressed and actioned.
To be a ‘Step Forward’ foster carer, you must be resilient. Children being put forward for the project will most likely have suffered significant developmental trauma due to previous abuse and foster placement breakdowns. I strongly believe the child will benefit and engage best with carers who adopt a therapeutic approach to their parenting. It also helps to be a bit of a ‘people-person’, as throughout the transition plan you work within a wider circle of people involved than you would in a normal placement, such as: council and agency professionals, therapists, birth family and all the staff at the child’s current residential care home. All in all, anybody who wants the opportunity to make a huge, long-term difference to a child’s life should enquire. It’s been great to see how my relationship with my child has grown over the past 2 months without yet having the 24/7 intensity of a regular foster placement.