What’s your story?
Chris: I’m Chris Allmey, I’m a foster carer - in fostering now with Kieran my partner for twenty years - initially in Lambeth in London but now down in Brighton.
Kieran: And we’ve been fostering here for nine years and we generally foster young people aged 12 and above and see them through to university, or work or into housing.
What qualities do you need to foster?
Kieran: You definitely need a good sense of humour. You need to be very accepting of differences people have, and we all find that difficult at times and try and impose our own ideals and standards on people – but people are different. And as you get to know a young person, they’ve got their own minds, and you won’t agree with everything that they do, you won’t agree with everything that they want to do, or what they want to do at college or things like that.
Chris: I think one of the other qualities that you need is to be prepared to learn, which as you get older tends to be a little bit more difficult but even in the time that we’ve been fostering, in the last twenty years, approaches to how you look after young people have changed.
What support do you get from Brighton and Hove City Council?
Chris: I think the support we’ve had, certainly from Brighton, has always been there. We’ve always had very good social workers ourselves and the social workers the young people have had have always been very good. We’ve always been able to contact people, which is the prime thing when things go wrong, you need to get a response as quickly as possible. So you do need to have a relationship where you work together for the best for the child.
How has your fostering journey been?
Kieran: Overall, thoroughly enjoyed it. We’ve had ten long-term foster children over the years. We’ve adopted one of the foster children that we had – him and his wife just had a baby last week so for a week and a day now we’ve been grandparents, which we’re very happy about. And we’ve had some failures along the way as well and things haven’t worked out the way we’d like with some of the young people. But with all of them, we’re still in contact and we’re still a base where they come for support, help and someone to talk to.
What makes fostering rewarding?
Chris: Watching young people grow, develop and the positive ones are where they actually become successful members of society basically, and they’re independent and they’re doing well. Also, situations where re-establishing relationships with birth families that can be very rewarding for us. But basically just seeing young people come from situations where they’re very distressed and becoming confident and fulfilled.
What are the challenges?
Kieran: It’s learning how to manage it and be realistic about what young people do nowadays. It’s the same with social media now – having to learn what’s out there on social media and keep them safe without curtailing them being a young person and doing what normal young people do.
What would you say to potential fosterers?
Chris: If you’ve got the time and the space – anyone that’s got children know they take an enormous time and effort – but you will get an awful lot out of it. But in the long term, the relationships we’ve built up, with the young people we’ve looked after – are priceless.