Being a foster carer is a positively life changing experience. But of course I’d say that. As Director of Children, Families and Safer Communities for the city, children’s wellbeing is my absolute priority. I’m a ‘corporate parent’ to the 680 city children in our care – children, including sibling groups, who cannot live with their families, as shown on this recent BBC documentary. The reasons for this are wide and varied, but the commonality between all these children is that they need love, understanding, determination and someone to truly believe and aspire for them and with them, and to help them come to terms with the adversity and trauma in their lives. Our city ambition is for all our children to experience and belong in a loving family home, and to have the skills and emotional strength of character to be resilient and to succeed, whatever that looks like for them.
It’s for this reason, that I became a foster carer, but even with the professional role I have, I under estimated the impact fostering would have on me and my family. It is a privilege to support and nurture a child through the ages and stages of their life, to experience the ‘firsts’ with them; the first time they see the sea, ride a bike, attend their first day at a new school, to see the pride when they are elected class rep and to hear them talking about their future and potential career with aspiration and imagination. I have my own ‘birth’ children, and they too have a better appreciation of the adversity in children’s lives, which has made them more curious and empathetic with peers and others around them; more appreciative of what mum and dad do for them.
As a foster carer, I receive an allowance towards the costs of raising a child – clothing, festive holidays, travel, clubs, pocket money. I receive regular training and there are online and face to face support groups to help me understand the experiences and trauma that my foster child may have had, and give me techniques and approaches to support them. Like all children (and adults!), they have great days and not so great days, and it’s these occasions where you can really make the difference, show you care, that you’re committed to them and to remember that all children are little ‘adults in training’ and it’s a privilege to help and assist them on their journey to independence. Additionally, Bristol City Council is a fostering friendly employer, which means that they understand there are times when I must prioritise my foster child to attend a health meeting, or education plan meeting or a care review.
In Bristol, we regard our foster carers as our city ‘VIPs’. Our awesome group of carers come from diverse backgrounds and cultures; black, white, couples, singles, LGBTQ+, younger, retired; all make for a rich pattern of love and support across the city. We have some carers that look after sibling groups, others who support mothers and babies, and some who offer respite at weekends and other occasions. Some more experienced carers are ‘therapeutic carers’, with enhanced training, support and remuneration to care for our more traumatised children.
So you see, I know first-hand that being a foster carer is a positively life changing experience. If you’ve room in your home and your heart, you’d be whole heartedly welcomed into our foster carers family, and well supported to make a difference to a child. If you would like to explore fostering further click here to visit out website.