As Foster Care Fortnight comes to a close we're sharing the story of Dave who has experienced both being a social worker and a foster carer...
I’m Dave and I qualified as a social worker in 2000. I’m based within the team that assesses people who want to be foster parents and I also became a foster carer myself in 2011.
Over the years, I’ve met many foster parents and always admired them for providing an emotionally warm environment for children. Becoming a foster carer was a natural progression for me, I gravitate towards helping people, see the good in everybody and I like the idea of helping children and adults to have aspirations.
As one of the fostering assessment team, I spend 10 weeks really trying to get to know the people who have applied to foster. I’m not looking for them to pass or fail but to see all the great skills and experience people have and to help them consider what type of fostering they are best suited to such as babies, young children or teenagers.
I visit prospective foster parents and learn about their life - their childhoods, adult life, education, career etc. We are not necessarily looking for people who have done well in their career or education, we’re more interested in their ability to reflect and learn from their experiences. For example, a person may have done badly in school, but can they recognise what was wrong or why they didn’t do well, and do they have the mindset to help a foster child and give them extra support?
After spending time getting to know them, I can go on to recommend them for approval to foster and raise any areas where they may need additional support. As a foster carer myself, while there are always the general day to day tasks of looking after a child, the main role is to act as a detective thinking about their emotional needs and how to support them. Most foster children have suffered trauma in their early lives. This trauma may show in their behaviour and it is the role of the foster carer, with the support of the council, to look at ways to ‘wrap a comfort blanket’ around this behaviour.
Being a social worker and a foster carer fits with my basic values. We all know people who are brilliant at maths or drawing or building stuff, whereas I was always alert to a person’s emotional needs, wanting people to get the best out of themselves. Being a foster carer 100% matches who I am.
Foster carers play a vital role in helping a child to settle and enjoy life. Fostering isn’t about having a big house or a fancy education it’s about looking past a child’s behaviours and knowing that you make a difference by just being there for them. Most adults can remember somebody who was a little bit special for them. I could be your nan listening to you when you were busy eating your ice cream or your grandad pushing you on the swings. Foster children need people who can make a child feel wanted and special.
As a social worker there are many times I’ve seen a foster carer make a difference but it’s the little things I remember. Seeing the happiness in a child’s face showing me their holiday snaps; seeing a teenage foster child getting their first job.
If you give a child a million little moments they will all add up to something very special.
I’ve been a foster carer for more than 10 years and at times it has been stressful and challenging but the positives far outweigh any difficulties. If you are looking to either enhance your life, change direction or add to your skills fostering is an ideal choice. Most of all, it suits those who are interested in seeing children thrive.