Meet Michelle, who has fostered for 10 years. She began fostering when her son was 14 years old, as a single carer.
Michelle had high expectations when she applied to be a foster carer, lots of love to share. She thought giving a child a happy home environment, making sure they were healthy, fed, went to school that she would “be able to change the world and children’s lives”, so, I asked did this happen? Michelle laughed saying, no amount of training and discussions fully prepared her as a new carer, but, what has made a difference is having a supportive family, a support network and the support and guidance from the fostering agency.
Michelle has had only 1 child in her 10 years of fostering, wow, isn’t this admirable! Sam arrived when he was seven years old and is still in her care. It was an absolute pleasure seeing Michelle over video call, as it was clear in her face how committed and proud she is of the little boy who arrived and who is now a young man.
Sam had many difficulties in his early life that led to many challenges for him and for Michelle. She described how It was clear that Sam would benefit from being the only child in the care of this amazing family and for me the success behind this is the commitment made by Michelle, she appears resilient.
Michelle describes fostering as “The most important job in the world, Fostering is life changing, becomes your life, but I am stubborn, I stick with things and won’t give up”. I cannot help thinking that it is this determination and passion for what Michelle does that has enabled Sam to be the successful young person he has become.
When Sam arrived, Michelle told me that she threw so many activities at Sam thinking that was the right thing to do, but he was overwhelmed. However, since the age of 12 years Sam has been a Cadet and is now Lance Corporal. What a responsible position, a huge well done to Sam. Michelle talked of the phenomenal support of school. He achieved amazing GCSE results which secured him a place at college doing animal care.
Sam has clearly developed some of that passion and drive Michelle has, she described how he gets up every morning and attends Virtual College, this is remarkable and takes a lot of self-discipline.
Michelle talked of the challenges of fostering and how they she manages. She said that nothing changes overnight, when children arrive there are lots of challenges and improvement is gradual. She talked sensitively of not being able to change everything, “you can’t change the experiences a child has gone through, you can't wash away their past trauma, it will always be there, this is who they are. It's me that has had to change, we make the changes to manage, adapt and work through the challenges” I find talking to Michelle very inspiring and moving, she is very reflective and I can hear the emotion when she talks of Sam and his journey.
Michelle told me a little of how her own son found fostering. Sam struggled to say positive things to Michelle and showed this through challenging behaviour. Michelle’s son naturally wanted to protect his mum, as nobody wants their parent hurt in any way, they had to work this out. She had to ask that her son removed himself and went to his room to allow Michelle to manage the behaviour. She questioned whether this would have felt like he was being pushed out but added that this was the best strategy for them, ensuring her son understood this was to protect and keep everyone safe. Michelle is everything you want from a foster carer, she clearly is patient, fun, nurturing and has an ability to learn and develop. This enabled her to work out having time for herself, time together as a whole family and very importantly time for her own son and Sam separately, wow, what a skill. Sam will be staying with Michelle beyond 18 years, and her own adult son is still living at home – maybe she has done things too well!
(the name of the child within this article has been changed)
With thanks to Capstone Foster Care