Carol-Ann and Stephen live in the West of Scotland and have two children of their own. Carol-Ann reflects she had a “difficult and challenging upbringing”. This start in life gave her a passion for caring for young people , she always thought “if I could make any child’s life better, that’s what I wanted to do.” Carol-Ann comes from a legal background but has always carried a desire to make a difference in the lives of young people.
Stephen draws on his experiences working within the prison system as motivation to care for young people, “I found that many of the men there had similar stories and life patterns before.” He often wondered “would we be able to help a young person and ensure that they were supported and not going to experience what many of the men I work with did in their younger years.”
After a lot of consideration, Carol-Ann and Stephen reached out to Care Visions nine years ago to begin their fostering journey. Carol-Ann was keen to work with young people, “I thought about if working in childcare or fostering was going to be the best choice. Then I thought that you could make more of a difference to a child or young person’s life through fostering.” After the assessment process, comprehensive training and discussions at the approval Panel, they felt ready to begin caring for young people.
Carol-Ann informs fostering has been very different to her previous professional career. She enjoys caring for young people and can see the positives this has had, “Fostering has given me my voice and made me feel valued for my opinion. I didn’t have that before. Speaking up for children is an important part of fostering. This is the case for being advocates for them at school. Previously some teachers would see you as different from the parents of Non-Care Experienced children so I had to work hard to make sure that wasn’t the case. I am happy to say now that the schools the young people in our care have went to are fantastic and understanding, but that wasn’t always the case. There were pre-conceptions about Care Experienced Children and a stigma that I had to stand up against.”
This desire to make a difference has been key to Carol-Ann and Stephens success as Foster Carers. Carol-Ann spoke in detail about some of the personal benefits of fostering, “we’ve made friends over this time and it has really helped keep us young and active. It is also a better home/work balance than I previously had. With my oldest son I was out of the house in the early morning and not back until the late evening. Now this isn’t the case I can see family and my children much more. Fostering has given me more time with family and a better life with my children.”
Carol-Ann and Stephen are currently caring for two young people. They recall one of the young people they care for presented a number of complex needs, “at the start when he first came here, he couldn’t give you eye contact, we encouraged him to play which he hadn’t done much of before.” The couple have worked hard to build their relationship with the young person and inform “now there is so much love there from him, right in your face.” The couple can see the benefits of their hard work at home with the young person as well as in the community as he is making great progress at nursery.
The couple are also caring for a young person who has experienced a lot of adversity in their life. This experience can make it difficult for the young person to express themselves, leading to angry outbursts and challenging behaviours. Carol-Ann and Stephen have been very creative in working with the young person and now feel they have found the right supports for them. Carol-Ann informs “My friend works in music therapy, this really unleashed a level of happiness in them that we hadn’t seen before. She also learned from watching her brother play and gradually wanted to become more involved.”
Although highly rewarding, carers can be presented with a number of challenges through their fostering journey, “it does take lots of time and energy. But patience and learning with young people is key.”. Stephen relates the rewards fostering can bring in terms of making a difference to a child or young person’s life, “particularly with a younger child here on placement you can see progress so visibly.”
Stephen and Carol-Ann mentioned how they were prepared for Fostering through the Skills To Foster training with Care Visions. Stephen reflects “learning from other Foster Carers was vital and hearing their experiences could better prepare us for ours.” Skills to Foster is a workshop in the form of a supportive, informal group with others who are at the same stage in their fostering journey. It’s designed to help people make an informed decision and explore the fostering journey in more detail. By the end of the sessions, those attending will have a better understanding of the role of foster carers with Care Visions and can now decide together on next steps.
The Skills to Foster sessions helped make up Stephen and Carol-Ann’s mind that fostering was indeed the right choice for them. It is also something which they would strongly propose to those considering becoming Foster Carers to go to. Stephen put this forward, “I would recommend those who are seriously thinking about it to put themselves forward to attend sessions like these, hear from those who have done it and to learn from those valuable experiences.”
More information on taking the first steps on your own Fostering Journey with Care Visions is available via here.