Mark is a support worker for adults. He and his partner Kieran, a hairdresser, began fostering Will when he was 14-years-old. They live together in London.
I saw an advertisement about fostering in our local newspaper and chatted the idea over with Kieran. We decided to give each other space to think about it. The initial reason was to give a young person a better start in life. We went to an open evening and found out more about it but until you actually foster, you don’t realise the amount of time it takes and the impact it has on your life.
We thought long-term fostering would offer a young person stability. We wanted them to live with us on a permanent basis and to fit into our family unit. We thought we could offer consistency and build up a relationship with a young person. We didn’t want to foster short-term and, having built up a rapport, see the person leave.
The assessment took almost a year and then we decided to have a cooling-off period to give us a chance to step back and think about it. Our link worker was great about this. Anyway, after a while we decided to go ahead with it. Our social worker then said she had someone in mind, so the next step involved meeting Will’s social worker and then we moved towards introductions.
We have helped Will move to a local school and make new friends. It was a really big transition for him but we were all keen for it to happen. For any young person in care, change presents difficulties but he coped really well.
We had a honeymoon period, which lasted about four weeks. Will had a few problems with anger management, so we had to deal with this. We spoke to him and dealt with problems head-on. We told him that it was fine to express his anger but that it was inappropriate to damage himself, other people or property.
We find humour defuses a lot of situations. You also have to have empathy and be willing to listen. You have to try to put yourself in their shoes. They have been moved around and don’t feel settled. They won’t have respect for a home until they feel settled, so you need to offer stability, security and consistency.
Until we started fostering, we didn’t realise what a difference it would make. Before a child or young person is in your life, you only have to think about you and your partner. Now we have to plan things much more, always make sure someone is at home at tea time, there is food in the house, and so on. We have had to be methodical but once you get into it things become more normal.
I would advise people to think long and hard about fostering before committing to it and be realistic and serious about it. It is well worth doing and there is so much need in society as there are so many kids in care. If you put a lot in, you get a lot out.