Hi, I’m Lornna and I’ve been a Foster Carer for nearly 6 years, that’s 2080 day, or 2,955,200 minutes and counting! Within this time, I have never been without a child in my care and I’m fortunate enough to have experienced the highs and lows that raising a child brings.
I’ve learnt so much and been taught so much by every child that has come into our house and made it their home. We have as a family adapted, overcome and rejoiced in every moment and there’s memories we love and memories we’ve grown from… all of which make us who
we are today as individual and as a tight family unit.
So with my wealth of wisdom or you could say, my ability to wing it with a great poker face and a gentle ‘mum-stare ’that’ll confuse you; I wanted to share some things that have helped along the way, ask you some concepts to think about and maybe get your feedback and hopefully help you along your journey into what seems like the unknown at times and
yet the light at the end of the tunnel is always so warming, its somewhat addictive.
Whether you’ve had your own children or not, being a Foster Carer is a whole new ball game
and you have to be prepared, not only because the children offer a variety of experiences you didn’t see coming, but because the ‘system’ can sometime seem baffling and exhausting, however we’re in this together!
So along with your wonderful supportive Supervising Social Worker(s), I’d like to offer my inside views, tips and laughs, maybe it’ll help… maybe it wont!!
1) Never get rid of furniture, you’ll never know when you need to convert a room to a bedroom.
2) Be prepared to decorate.
3) Memories don’t need to cost money, camping in the garden, water fights, board games, face packs, film nights and baking cakes are all basic things kids (and believe me teenagers too) love to do and they will remember far more than elaborate days out which have cost you the earth and the stress has caused a tantrum…
4) When a teenage girl arrives, I always have a basket of sanity items in their room, because that maybe the last thing they want to tell you on day one!
5) Leave a fresh towel in their room, it prompts them to shower and they don’t need to ask to use one of the ‘family’ towels, which they’ll come to use eventually, but often I find
they don’t like to use, what we as a family use, until they feel more comfortable.
6) Have plenty of snacks in… Food can warm most hearts, so although I promote healthy eating, trying to insist a child eats your fivelentil curry, lasagne made with Quorn or vegetable stew for example will 90% of the time end in disaster! They aren’t being rude, they may not have any concept that burger and chips, pot noodle or a crisp butty isn’t a suitable diet. With food, go slowly. Nothing worse than a hungry child who doesn’t want to offend you but resents your bean burger and halloumi fries!
7) If you give a child bus fare or train fare, ask for them to keep the tickets so you know they spent the money on the intended and not anything you’d not approve of.
8) If they won’t hand over their phone as a consequence, take their charger!! Let them watch their battery life disappear… *throws head back **evil laugh
9) Reward charts… For any age! It works as well for my 6-year-old as it did for my 14-year-old… Most children in care, love to do the most childish of things, so a reward chart offers an ideal structure and enlightens their inner child too.
10) Remember, everything will seem better in the morning. After a tough day, an emotional encounter or dealing with a run-away; everything will be ok in the morning! You have people to talk to and you do have the UK Fostering protective wall around you to get you through all elements of emotion, situations and eye-opening moments.
1) Don’t be afraid to parent children differently! What works for one child doesn’t work for the other. I can put my 10-year-old on the thinking step to think through his actions, I couldn’t do that to my 16-year-old! I leave my 8-year-old to fume in his bedroom for 10 minutes before speaking to him because he’ll battle through his rage, with words he can’t take back. So, where there’s a consequence needed, not all consequences need to be the same… Always be fair, always be open to listening but don’t be afraid to parent differently according to your child’s age, situation and attitude.
2) Its ok to realise you’re doing a job! Looking after children and giving them a better life, keeping them safe, offering security and creating memories is what we signed up for, however that’s not the start or end of fostering. We have guidelines, LAC Reviews, Appointments, Logs, Social Workers, the System in general to work with, alongside and sometime against. On some days you’ll need to adjacent yourself from care giver, to negotiator, to boardroom power house to common sense provide!. Sometimes it’s hard, mostly it’s amazing, but on those days when structure and guidelines consume you, over hugs, glitter and film night, allow yourself to realise you are the full package and you have the right to feel how you feel. There’s moments you can’t control, there’s people who don’t know ‘your child’ and there’s dead ends, it’s all in life of a Foster Carer and you’re living it, you’ll learn from it and there is always someone to talk to who understands…