Foster Care Fortnight – celebrating our foster carers and the transformational power of fostering

It’s Foster Care Fortnight which gives me an opportunity to highlight Bristol’s incredible community of foster carers. They make room in their lives each and every day to make a world of difference to local children. I especially want to thank them for their continued dedication during these challenging times.

Today’s guest blog comes from George Pennington-Field. George has been a foster carer for almost five years and lives in East Bristol with his partner and four foster children.

Becoming a Foster Carer was about wanting to change someone’s life, offering them a safe and loving environment and supporting them as they grow through life’s challenges and successes. Who knew that my partner and I, along with all our valued fostering friends would be thrown into such an unprecedented and uncertain time with our young people/children. 

It has been the most challenging of times. Chances are most of our children/young people have experienced some form of trauma, loss, and uncertainty, and this has evidently come to the forefront again during the lockdown. 

Like their peers they miss their friends, teachers, social clubs, day trips and input from the professionals around them. Yet added to this mix, they are missing their families, their parents, and siblings.

As a Foster carer during this period we have had to ‘up the game’ as it were, using our creative skills to think up activities that don’t involve going out. We’ve become teachers, pastoral carers and learning support workers. We recognise when our children are becoming anxious or worried, offer a distraction, take on their concerns and worries to add to ours, encourage them to not sweat the small stuff, manage behaviours prompted by their experiences and the impact the virus has on them, and at all times ensure their safety.

Yet, it has also been one of the greatest times. Living in close proximity in the home, I have got to know my four young people/children a lot better. We have laughed at corny jokes, played board games which I haven’t played in years, learnt new skills, baked more cakes than Greggs, clapped the heroes on Thursday nights, painted walls, planted seeds, made outer space creatures from cereal boxes and empty bottles. We have sat and talked around our table, there has been tears but there has been so much more laughter. We have become professionals in the use of Zoom, and the kids have been fascinated to see the interior of their social workers homes, ‘what’s that a picture of behind you?’ ‘what’s your kitchen look like’. We have also been able to share the load with other foster carers, who like us, are in the same situation but still make time for weekly Zoom bingo!

Those professionals around the children have also ‘pulled it out the bag’, offering additional support, phone calls, Zoom visits, craft packs, and in some cases, going above and beyond their role to ensure the needs of our children are being met.

Like everyone else, the message at home has been ‘we are in this together’, and in this I feel they have learnt to work as a team, or shall we call it a family? Rainbows are everywhere in the home and in that their meaning has become apparent in our home and is now a mantra for this family: ‘a promise of good things to come’.

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