Becoming a foster carer is a big decision, and the assessment process can seem daunting. We chat to Sarah, 30, and her wife Gemma, 32, who have been fostering mixed race siblings with Brighton and Hove City Council for a year. They have never felt like they are on their own.
Why did you want to become Foster Carers?
We have talked about fostering since the day we met. Both our families have fostered, so fostering is something we’ve grown up with. Once we had married, found our flat, and settled down, we thought it’s now or never.
How did you find the assessment process?
It was really interesting! We learned a lot! We thought we knew everything about ourselves and one another but it was an eye opener. Everybody was so supportive at every step.
What made you decide to foster with Brighton and Hove City Council?
We began our application with an Independent Fostering Agency (IFA), but we then decided we wanted to foster with Brighton and Hove. IFAs look to local authorities for placements but local authorities always place with their in-house carers first. We also learned that local authorities are not-for-profit, so it’s the children who benefit.
What did the assessment process involve?
We were allocated an Assessing Social Worker who was brilliant and so supportive. She came to our house for an Initial Home Visit which was very informal. We chatted, had a cup of tea, and showed her where the children’s bedroom would be. We were visited more regularly after that, but it always felt comfortable.
Our Assessing Social Worker visited our family and friends, and also our place of work. This was important because we both worked in childcare. Having no children of our own, she needed to see how we interacted with children in our care. For extra child care practice we borrowed our niece and nephew for sleepovers. We were very popular!
We then attended the Skills to Foster three-day training course. I’ve been working in childcare for 14 years, and it’s the best training I’ve ever had. It gave a real sense of what fostering is truly like.
Tell us about going to panel
After Skills to Foster, we completed some forms. The forms were sent to a panel of people from different backgrounds. It was quite daunting when we first walked in, but everyone was lovely, and they made it so easy.
How did you feel once you knew you’d been approved?
We went out for dinner and celebrated! It was a lovely feeling!
Tell us about your first placement. How did you prepare?
We had our first placement quite quickly. We met the children for the first time after school and took them out for a hot chocolate. The next time we met, we took them to the park. Then they visited our home, and saw their room. We took them shopping and let them pick out their bedding. He picked Star Wars and she picked Trolls. They also both chose comfort blankets, which we kept until they arrived. We knew how scary it must be for them so we wanted to do all we could to make them feel comfortable and safe.
The first night was nerve-wracking! We didn’t sleep at all! We had the TV on silent and were creeping around the house, because we didn’t want to wake them. We asked them what their favourite meal was; it was chicken curry so we cooked it for their tea.
As the nights went on we all became more comfortable. We now feel like one big happy family.
Have you experienced any prejudice?
To begin with, we had to offer lots of support. Friends at school had blonde hair or brown hair, and different skin. Elsa from Frozen was a favourite, but then there was Moana! Films can be a great resource. Our training helped us to teach them to be proud of themselves. We watched The Greatest Showman and discovered a song in it called ‘This is Me’. They both sing it all the time. The difference in them is incredible, they don’t see themselves as being any different to anyone else. Their confidence has come on leaps and bounds.
How have you found the support?
There’s so much support. We’ve always been able to contact our Social Worker and we’ve never felt like we’re on our own. There’s a 24-hour emergency line, and we were ‘Buddied Up’ with a foster carer who we could call for advice. Throughout, we were able to speak with approved foster carers about their experience which was so helpful. The support network is amazing.
We’ve had to do some mandatory training such as Attachment and Paediatric First Aid. There’s also bespoke training, for example a day was organised for carers to learn how to take care of Afro hair.
What advice would you give to others thinking of fostering?
Do it! Throughout our journey, foster carers told us it would be the best thig we’d ever do, and whilst there are days when we think, this is hard, it has been the best thing we’ve ever done, and the most rewarding. It’s the best decision we’ve ever made.
If you'd like to find out more about fostering with us, please join us at our next Information Evening on the 11th July. Meet the team, find out about what fostering involves, learn who we're looking for and how to apply. You will be able to hear first-hand from some of our experienced foster carers and ask them questions.