Shell and her husband, Kevin, had been considering fostering for some six years before they contacted Carolina House Trust. Shell had worked for a high street bank since school and often considered fostering but was put off by the unknown. The option of redundancy presented her with the opportunity to consider foster caring seriously and encouraged by Kevin, they sat down with good friends who are all foster carers with Carolina House Trust and discussed the likely rewards and challenges that comes with the role.
Shell said, “I love being a mum. My vocation in life is to be a momma. The bank was just a job. I liked helping customers, but I did not like selling. I wasn’t fulfilled. I often thought about working with children and even volunteered at a school for a while. Redundancy gave me the push I needed to decide. I don’t have a job now. I have a busy family life.”
When asked why she chooses to care she said, “Why care? Why not? I wanted to really help someone and their family, give them a good start and see them through to adulthood.”
Shell and Kevin have been fostering with Carolina House Trust for almost three years. They are foster carers to a six-year-old boy. They live with their daughters aged ten and 21 and Shell’s mum, who everyone calls Granny.
Shell said, “Our young person has fit in perfectly. He has been part of the family from day one. He is a sociable wee boy who has brought a lot of fun. He is progressing nicely, is hitting his milestones, and is happy. Our families are completely on board, and he is included in everything. Granny is a big part of his life and spends a lot of time with him. In a house of girls, it’s also been good to see our young person bond with Kevin. It’s beautiful.”
Application and assessment
Shell did have reservations, “After some initial discussions, we spoke to the girls about fostering before going ahead as a family. Our youngest (who was eight years old at the time) had some fears about sharing her mum and dad with someone, but she is very caring and came around. She liked the fact she would be helping somebody. Our assessor spent time with the girls and my step-son during the assessment period to find out what they thought of us as carers.”
Approval and matching
Once Shell and Kevin were approved as foster carers it was three months before their young person came to live with them. She said, “I didn’t appreciate that after approval we would have to be put forward as a profile for young people’s referrals and that we might not be chosen. That was difficult. I wondered if we were good enough. Carers need to know about that before they are approved. In the end, we couldn’t have had a more perfect match than our young person for our family. He is meant to be here. We have been so lucky with our first experience of foster care.”
Shell and her family attend CHT Community events designed for children living in foster care and the children of foster carers. She shared, “Our youngest attended Sons and Daughters events while we were applying and then waiting to be matched with a young person. She comes along to Hallowe’en and Christmas parties too. We were all together with CHT at the Safari Park when we got the call to say our young person would be coming to live with us.”
Shell supports her young person to stay in touch with his family. “I coordinate with the carers who look after our young person’s brothers to meet up. They love spending time together. I am the type of person who is kind to everybody. I have to be friendly, but professional. Showing that you are kind and respectful to the young person’s family is important for them.”
Like many foster carers, Shell has found it challenging to help her young person deal with his emotions. Dealing with aggression can be hard but by trying to understand the triggers carers can support young people through their behaviours and make positive change.
Shell said, “Discovering therapeutic parenting has been a game-changer. The theory about trauma and brain development helps you have more empathy and understand why things are happening. Kevin and I work together on this as a team. Training and speaking to other foster carers can help but you have to try things for yourself, and you don’t really know how you will feel about it until you do. We want to help him and we have a great bond which makes it easier.”
Shell admits that not being in control of the plan for her young person can be difficult when you have built attachments and it has felt emotional at times. She is now happy with the plan in place for her young person and the family.
Shell and her family were in a good routine by the second lockdown. They had opportunities to try different activities and her young person benefited from one-to-one support with his learning while at home. Shell said, “I like being at home. I was relaxed about it, so the kids were too. They knew why they couldn’t go to school or see their friends. We used our imagination and were creative about play.”
“Every child deserves a carefree, happy life and so many kids out there don’t have that. If you have space in your heart and can love them, that’s what they need.”