As part of Fostering Fortnight, Ann (not her real name) was interviewed by BBC Radio Suffolk breakfast show hosted by Terry Baxter.
How did you get involved in the Scope scheme in the first place?
Well, fostering is something I thought about for a long time before I started looking into it. I’ve worked with adults with leaning difficulties for quite a long time. I have a colleague who did respite care, and it’s just something I thought maybe I could really do. I love being a mum and one day I decided to research it on the internet and… here we are today.
Now I’m sure there are tremendous rewards in fostering individuals, young people, with particularly disabilities, but there also must be challenges as well, and some would say it’s not an easy option to go for. Tell me why you specifically looked to get involved in this particular area of fostering?
I decided to care for disabled children, because I had so much experience of working with people with learning difficulty. I just felt quite passionate about it really and I just wanted to make a difference to a child’s life. I loved the idea of giving a child new opporunity and experiences. I just thought it would be a really good thing to do!
Clearly it is; it’s a wonderful thing to do, how long have you been doing it?
I started fostering the little girl I care for now, 2½ years ago and she’s now a permanent placement. We have to have it go to panel for permanence residency, and so she will be staying with us until she reaches adulthood.
And in terms of what is brought to your home, can you describe that?
She’s just brilliant, the whole family loves her and on a day-to-day basis, it’s just like caring for my own children. I’ve got two children aged eight and five, and she’s nine.
She’s brought brilliant things to this family. It is the most rewarding thing that we’ve ever done. Before she came into care, she was described as passive, an empty shell – like she was in a world of her own. People said it was like she wasn’t there. Now she’s described as confident, sociable, full of it and we’ve had such brilliant feedback. People thank us and say whatever you are doing, keep on doing it! Having that sort of feedback makes me and my husband feel brilliant. My children accepted her straight away, and they’re like proper sisters.
Thanks great, I was going to talk about your children. It’s great for the adults in the household to decide to do this, the children tend to go along with it as well. It’s fantastic to hear it’s been a very smooth operation in terms of your children accepting your additional child.
Yes, definitely. I think when she first came to us, my little one was only two and my other child was six. And because they were quite young, they just accepted her straight away, you know with older children it might be a little more difficult, I don’t know, but in my experience they accepted her straight wawy. They love her to bits, and she’s just like a proper sister.
And I can hear it in your voice that she is a very strong part of your family! If people are listening to this, and have a feeling towards fostering children with disability, what advice would you give them?
All you need is to have the right attitude. You don’t have to worry about what experience you have. It’s about having a caring attitude, and you need a spare bedroom. I think, if you’re thinking about doing it, enquire and talk to someone and think about it, because it really is in your reach. All I can say is it’s the best decision me and my husband ever made, and we’ve loved it.
What about Scope? How much help have they been able to provide? Have they been a support for you?
Yes, we have a Scope social worker, and she supported us through the assessment process, because it takes a few of months to be assessed to become a carer. They are always on the other end of the phone if you need advice, support you, talk through any problems. We have monthly supervisions. We also get our training through Scope. They also do things like; they sorted out and funded alterations we needed to our house before our child was placed with us. There are regular foster carer support groups that are organised by Scope where carers can all get together and share their experiences and advice and just have a chat.
So, it sounds like they are there all the way through the process for you?
Oh yeah, they’re brilliant. The support they give you is really very good.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Good luck, it sounds like you’ve got a fantastic family there and thank you for sharing your experiences with us.