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Best fostering memory? “The day our foster son said he loved us”

Charmaine, foster carerThere are many misconceptions around who can foster – what age you have to be, whether you can still work and that your own children need to have left home. However, none of these things prevent you from becoming a brilliant foster carer and changing a young person’s life.

Charmaine started fostering in her late twenties. She has two young children and has continued with her nursing career over the past three years, all while supporting children in care to enjoy a happy, family life.

Why did you want to start fostering?

I’ve always known all about fostering because it was something my mum wanted to do. From a young age there were two things I wanted – firstly, to have lots of kids, and secondly to become a nurse in a hospital. I accomplished these things so fostering was the next step.

How was nursing and fostering during the pandemic?

I reduced my nursing hours when I became a foster carer but went full-time during the first wave to help. It was challenging to do that and then home school on my days off – I take my hat off to teachers.

Everything in between work and home schooling was a lot of fun; we made it into a family adventure! I created a scrapbook of everything we did, like crafts, baking, walks and playing in the garden. The pandemic was hard in so many ways but I’m glad we made those memories.

What made you pick St Christopher’s to foster with?

I had spoken to different fostering agencies and the local authority but couldn’t get the right feel for one. Then I met two people who had been fostering for years with St Christopher’s. They told me about what St Christopher’s offer and put me in touch.

Why did you want to foster now rather than in the future?

Many people want to wait until they’re older to start fostering but I was the polar opposite; I would rather do it now. A child in my care now doesn’t stand out from my own children as I look the right age to be their mum, so they blend in with the family when we are out and about.

As I have an eight year old son, it means any foster child isn’t on their own. My foster son calls us mum and dad if anyone asks, which means there is less stigma. I hope it feels lovely for a child to be welcomed into our family.

We also do loads of activities with the children that we might not be able to do when we are older, like motocross and sports.

What support do St Christopher’s give to your family?

My social worker is an amazing support, I can’t fault her. She is always there on the phone, I can ring her for a rant if I’m having a bad day or to tell her about an achievement or if I want advice on a situation.

She also thinks about everyone in the household and sees us as a family, not just the two foster parents. Even when I was pregnant and my youngest son was a new-born, she offered to take them to the park.

The training is flexible so my husband and I can do as much online as possible to fit around our jobs. And they always let me know the therapist is available if I want to talk to her.

What is the best thing about fostering?

The best thing is the reward you get, especially with looking after a young person long-term and seeing them grow over the years. Other people compliment my foster son saying he’s lovely and polite – I know that’s the work we’ve put in and that he’s happy because of us.

A child just needs the right opportunities regardless of their background so I don’t think there is a greater reward than seeing them flourish. You worry about them the same as your own kids, such as whether you’re doing the right thing for them.

Do you have a favourite fostering memory?

The one thing that stands out for me is the day our foster son said he loved us. I know and respect that he still loves his mum dearly so I didn’t think he would feel that way about us, but both his mum and I tell him that he can love us both so he feels accepting of it.

What should someone know before they start fostering?

I would encourage people to foster providing it’s the right thing for them as a family. Don’t think of just what you want, think of your family too. It affects all of you because the young person becomes part of everyone’s life.

Some people see fostering as easy money so they can quite their job but that shouldn’t be your first reason for doing it. You have to be all-in for the child emotionally and know there isn’t an off switch!

Young people might not recognise what you’re doing for them at the time but I hope one day they look back and realise that we were having a positive impact on their life. I wouldn’t change it for the world, it’s so beautiful and rewarding and worth it!

Would you like to foster? Get in touch with our friendly team today.