“Your life won’t be the same – it’s worth it”
Johnnie and Peter have been fostering for just over four years in Essex. As a same-sex couple, they weren’t sure whether they were able to foster but are happy they asked! They are passionate about ensuring children have the chance at a fulfilling future and advocating for them to receive the right support.
Why did you want to foster?
J: When I was growing up there were always lots of kids round our house, the door was always open. Two children came to stay with us for six months (their mum was a friend of my mum), which always left an impression of me. I wanted to have my own big family but it wasn’t feasible at the time once I realised I was gay, so we thought about adoption or fostering instead. We didn’t think it would be possible with both of us in full-time employment so when I retired after an accident at work, it was the right opportunity for us to start fostering.
P: I knew it was something Johnnie wanted to do so we saw an advert, applied and went from there. The initial training really sparked our interest, as well as the chance to speak to other foster carers.
Why did you choose to foster with St Christopher’s?
J: The fact that St Christopher’s is a charity, a not-for-profit, was very important to us. It means you know money is not the most important thing and that they will focus on helping children instead. St Christopher’s puts money back into the young people and don’t take a profit from what they do.
J: They are an organisation that wants to create brighter futures. Their mission resonated with us as we believe every child deserves the chance at a happy future.
As a same-sex couple, did you know you could foster?
J: It was one of our first questions – are we even able to foster? Of course you can, it doesn’t matter about your sexuality. Lots of people in the gay community don’t realise they can become foster carers.
P: We worried that the children we looked after might end up being bullied or hearing comments but thankfully they haven’t experienced any of that. We’ve always had positive feedback from professionals and from the young people themselves.
What has fostering been like in lockdown?
P: Lockdown made things slightly easier initially as we were both at home. Our foster son was not going to school so he was used to being in the house.
J: We put thought into each day, planning activities and incorporating school lessons.
What have you learnt through fostering?
J: To approach all issues and problems in a calm, thoughtful way, instead of just rushing in. You need to take a moment and think about what’s happening.
P: Expect the unexpected! Every child and every situation is different so we aim to be aware and try to have foresight. I also think it’s helps to be as professional as possible.
J: Exactly. Even if you are looking after two or three siblings, you have to treat them as individuals not just one group. This helps them to feel just as important as each other. The other thing is don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are advocates for young people, we will fight their corner and stick up for them.
What are you stand out moments from being a foster carer?
J: When one boy first moved in with us, he used to kick and bite. Over the months this reduced massively so it was a great achievement that he felt comfortable enough in the house to relax. Living with us for 18 months was the longest time he had lived anywhere in care and we could definitely see the change in him.
P: Sometimes children in care can feel they don’t deserve to be happy or in a safe home, even though this is something every child should have.
J: Yes, they can try to push you away or turn against you. You have to accept it and understand it is coming from a place of hurt, then you can think about how to help them.
What would you say to someone thinking about fostering?
J: Just do it! It is hard work but you definitely get more out of it than you put in.
P: If you’re not quite sure you can phone St Christopher’s and have conversations with current foster carers about the good things, potential things to be aware of and their experiences.
J: Your life won’t be the same – it will be disrupted, your routine will be messed up, you’ll have to work around things. But it’s worth it!
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
J: Going on a big family holiday, if we can! We want to take the kids somewhere fun and give them new experiences and the chance to try new foods. We did this before and the young people really got into the local food.
P: I’m looking forward to meeting the next young person we will look after and using our experience to help them. After four years you almost have a sixth sense of how you can help. We’ve got experience with all different age groups and issues like social media and different behaviours, so we can look back on what we have helped children to overcome.
J: I look forward to having noise in the house!
Learn more about fostering with St Christopher’s today – call 0800 234 6282 or request a call back on our website.