Today, I had the pleasure of speaking with Daisy, who is nearly 19 years old, and, meeting her carers. She came to live with Angie and Lynn when she was 8 years old and remains within their family today under a Staying Put arrangement.
Angie and Lynn have fostered for 14 years. They thought about it for two years before they applied, saying at “38” years old, they were not sure they were “mature enough”, they both laughed. Speaking to Angie and Lynn makes you smile because they are humorous, genuine, natural, and very honest. Angie and Lynn have had seven children join their family throughout their fostering life. They named all of them, speaking fondly of them and naturally interacted with each other, discussing them together. I get a true sense of “team” from Angie and Lynn who seem a strong couple. They appear fun, happy, and committed in a natural, warm household, Daisy was making lunch and there was positive, funny banter between them all whilst this was taking place.
When asked about the difficulties of fostering they say “be yourself, it can be challenging balancing the needs of children, especially when they are unrelated and have different family dynamics while their different personalities and behaviours can be difficult to manage. There have been times when it hasn’t worked out and fostering has not been the best option for a young person at that time”. They said this made them sad, “it hurts”, but they have done all they could and add “you can’t see it as failing”. They say that it is important to get support and advise from the agency and friends around you.
Angie says that “children want normality, they don’t want you to change everything, foster with open eyes, establish a relationship, be consistent, it can be frustrating, especially when plans are not clear, but continue to give the best you can, that’s why we foster, we want the best for children”.
Daisy can’t remember too much about when she first arrived with Angie and Lynn but when asked if she understood why it was necessary, she said it was to keep her “safe”. What made it a little easier for Daisy was knowing that her sister was already living with the carers and so she was not joining a household where everyone was a stranger to her. She did say that she remembers feeling “scared” as she didn’t really know what was happening, and that it happened quite quickly.
I asked Daisy about her early experience of being with Angie and Lynn. She told me they were very welcoming and supportive and that she has always been able to go to them for anything. Daisy told me about how her carers have helped maintain connections to her own family and supported her through the difficulties this can bring. Daisy’s experience of being a “child in care” has been positive, she says things for her are “really good, Angie and Lynn have pushed me into doing things”. This belief and drive from her carers have paid off, Daisy appears equally driven and now works in a school as a teaching assistant and has completed a Foundation element to a degree in Teaching and Learning. Wow, impressive right? She adds that she wants to be a teacher, who wants to bet she doesn’t become one?
What is remarkable about Daisy is her helpful and nurturing attitude, such maturity for someone so young, and how she now helps others either through her work role or when other children join the fostering household. I am not sure she recognises how impressive this is for a person so young.
Daisy was able to stay at the same junior school when she came into care at 8 years old. She was in year 4 and the carers supported this stability and took her the 20 minutes drive to school. Daisy explained that she then went to a more local secondary school, but what made this transition easier was Angie and Lynn took her to summer school, local to their home. This enabled Daisy to make new friends and made the transition easier, knowing her new friends were also going to the new school. How brave is this for any young person. It is so hard going into new environments, especially where you don’t know anyone, but Daisy is an incredibly determined person who pushed herself. She seems sensible, and caring and who wouldn’t want to be her friend?
Daisy works throughout the week; she proudly tells me she has worked from being 16 years old. She spends her weekend “chilling” with friends, Angie and Lynn and other children who are living within the family. She has been on some fantastic holidays and her carers told me how important it has been to take children with them on holiday/ They say “why wouldn’t we, they are part of our family”.
Daisy doesn’t like to be considered a child who has been in foster care. She says she is part of a “normal family” and that she found the reviews she has had as a reminder of being in care, something she does not miss now she has turned 18 years.
I asked Daisy about the Staying Put arrangements. She told me it means she is staying with Angie and Lynn as part of the family. We had a conversation about how hard it must be to become a young adult and have to worry about having to leave your family home at 18 years and that no young person should have to worry about this unless this is something they were fully prepared for and want to happen naturally. But, for so many young adults in care this is a reality. The Staying Put initiative allows flexibility for young people not ready to make the transition to being fully independent. This initiative was clearly welcomed by Angie and Lynn who are obviously dedicated to Daisy for as long as she wants this.
I asked Daisy what she would advise someone who is thinking of fostering and how she would prepare them? She said that it helps if they have had some experience of caring for children and an understanding of the different stages of a child’s life, but most importantly she said they should be “nurturing”. They should prepare themselves for fostering through training, be welcoming, allow the child to personalise their own room and put their feelings before their own, listen to a child’s voice” – sounds sensible advice to me!
Daisy thought a little about her own experience and that of other children that cannot remain with their own family at any given time, she said that she had, had it “kinda easy”, I am sure she hasn’t, but what strength this shows. Daisy said “it’s important to step into someone else’s shoes, understand about the child’s background, they are not going to forget what they have gone through before, they need time”, I asked “Has Angie and Lynn managed to do that, do you feel part of the family?” – the simple answer was “Course I do” – silly question, right?
A huge thankyou to Daisy for spending time chatting with me she is a lovely young woman who invited me to contact her if I had any other questions I might want to ask. We need to spend more listening to children and young people like Daisy and learn from them. Fostering is about caring for children, as Daisy says, keeping them safe, enabling them to be part of the family. Could you offer this to a child like Daisy? If you think you could, why not consider fostering.
Thanks to Angie and Lynn for taking time to speak with me and to Excel Fostering for putting me in touch with this great “fostering family”