Foster carer Liz from Aspull, in Wigan Borough, has looked after two boys (now 16 and 17) with her husband Gary, for the past six years.
Here, Liz shares some of her experiences of life as a foster carer, including why the couple decided to foster, the challenges and joys of raising teenage boys, and some words of advice to anyone who might be thinking about fostering.
Creating a strong and supportive family network
Becoming foster carers was something we’d always thought about.
We’d had our boys (biological sons) when we were relatively young and had been through some hard times when we were younger so when we got back on our feet the idea of being foster carers kept coming back to us.
Both of our lads said that we should do it. They thought we’d be good at it, so that encouraged us and eventually we decided that we would put ourselves forward for the training but that we’d take our time and see what happened – we wouldn’t force ourselves to do anything that didn’t feel right.
We were always going to take younger children for our first placement, but the two brothers, aged 10 and 11, were suggested, and we agreed.
We’ve never really looked back. I don’t know if it was because we’d already raised boys, or if we just felt lucky with them, but they fitted into our family immediately and settled with us very quickly, within six months.
I realized that there were lots of benefits to looking after older children; their personalities were more established, they could talk to you and tell you what they needed, they were more independent.
Of course, there have been challenges. When they first arrived with us they didn’t get along at all. But they’d spent so much time together and had been through a lot, so that was understandable.
We made sure they had their own bedrooms to give them some space from each other. They went to different high schools. We got them into a routine and spent time individually with them.
There have been so many highlights over the past six years. It’s the small things, like watching them learn new stuff, seeing them excited about going on a trip away with school, and just watching them gradually become happy young men.
If you’re thinking about fostering, I would say don’t rule out fostering teenagers. It has been so rewarding. You don’t need special skills – you just need a family home, time to give them patience, a routine, and food. Teenage boys do tend to eat a lot of food.
They are 16 and 17 now and I’m so proud of them both. One of them is in sixth form and has a job in a restaurant. The younger one has just secured a successful apprenticeship with a big north west firm, after a very challenging interview process, competing against 4,000 other applicants.
Our (biological) sons have also played a big part. They helped us to make the decision to foster originally, they were at home when the boys first came to live with us and were nothing but supportive. They are both always on hand now, even though they no longer live with us and have children of their own. One of our sons has even gone on to work with young people.
When I look back, we went into fostering as a family, and that was what the boys really needed: a strong family network.
Discover the benefits of fostering
Fostering with Wigan Council has many benefits for both foster carers and children:
- It is not for profit
- It aims to place all children with carers
- Local foster carers help keep children in a family place, maintaining school, family and friend connections
- Foster carers get a regular allowance and mileage payments – take a look at the council’s new reward package
- It offers help with equipment and resources
- You’ll get your own supervising social worker, support workers and daily duty phone line
- There is an ongoing training program
- It offers support groups and buddy foster carers
- It has an award-winning peer support project called Mockingbird
- You’ll get access to a counseling service
- All professionals involved with a child in your care are based within the same organization and often in the same building so communication is quicker
- You’ll get discounted membership at all local Be Well leisure centers
- You’ll get access to the My Rewards loyalty and discount scheme
For more information, call 01942 487200 or visit www.wigan.gov.uk/fostering, where you can also find details of the council’s next open evenings.