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From furniture sales to foster care – Jessie makes a difference

CHT Foster Carer Jessie encourages online applicants to make a difference in the lives of young people

Four years ago, Jessie was working for a furniture retailer and thinking about changing her career. Needing a change and inspired by her sisters who had become foster carers with Carolina House Trust, she contacted us to find out about becoming a foster carer herself.

She says, “I thought about what it would mean for my family. My motivation was to have a child with us long-term, to bring them on and give them a good life. I saw the difference in [the child living with her sister] after six years… I thought, maybe I could do that.”

Jessie, Tom and their young person at a family wedding.

Jessie’s family

Today she and her husband, Tom, are foster carers for a 10-year-old boy who has lived with them now for two years. Like many families, the past eleven months under lockdown has provided much more time at home and a break from the busy school routine for their young person. Jessie feels it has been an opportunity to get to know each other better but the young person is now beginning to miss school and his friends much more as time goes on. He enjoys his schoolwork and has even asked for more to do with Jessie’s grown-up children helping out with home learning.

Their young person describes Jessie and Tom’s grandson as his ‘foster brother’ and they get on very well. He even asked his school headteacher if he could have a school photograph taken with his foster brother, as well as his individual photos.

Jessie shares, “It’s one of the best photos we have of him. He has his arm around… and he’s laughing. It’s a natural look.”

Whether it’s family weddings, holidays or Christmas cards, their young person is included in everything they do.

 

Application and assessment

Jessie cautiously paused her application to fostering for a few months when she learned she was going to become a grandmother for the first time to get a feel for how much support she would be giving her daughter and grandson. As her time commitments became clearer, she pressed on with the foster care assessment and was approved one year after she initially called.

Jessie recalls that the assessment process was intensive, even though she understood the good reasons assessors had for asking about personal experiences. She notes that she and Tom were very open to the process but, for her, it felt harder due to a different background.

Jessie shares, “It’s your whole life, nothing is left out. Your home life, your background, your experiences of growing up. It can be difficult.”

Birthday celebrations at Jessie's house CHT Community

Jessie is supported by her Supervising Social Worker and has regular supervision meetings or calls with him as well as ad-hoc chats. She also highlights a network of foster carers, including her two sisters, is important for helping each other overcome challenges and obstacles as well as avoiding becoming more isolated than she was used to while working.

She says “It’s vital in fostering to have good support. You can bounce off each other.”

Jessie says that she leaned on this support when she was unable to continue caring for a young person and had feelings of failure to learn and move on. She acknowledges that many prospective foster carers fear this scenario for all parties, but she values the matching process, careful planning and both her and the young person having space to decide if their home is the right setting for them to thrive.

She advises “I would get to know the young person beforehand. It’s amazing what you can take away from speaking with a young person – a better idea than all the reports.”

Jessie’s advice

Jessie says, “Anybody who really wants to make a difference, should give it a go. It’s not for everyone, but if you absolutely want to change a child’s life, you should try it.”

Next steps

If you think you could be a foster carer with CHT, you can:

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