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Voices from the Other Side of Foster Care
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Contribution by BH and RS - North West

When my partner and I (same sex male couple) first thought about Fostering (Six years ago) we wondered how our application would be treated and if we would even get to the assessment stage. Although it did take three telephone enquiries before our details were taken and an initial visit was made by a Social Worker from the Local Authority Fostering Team - we were pleasantly surprised thereafter to be treated seriously, sensitively and professionally. We were also surprised at the speed that the assessment process had taken, going to Panel and then placed with a 13 year old young man (about 8 months in total). We had read and heard about some real horror stories about same sex couples and the discriminatory ways they had been treated. Maybe we just fell lucky with the Social Workers dealing with our application, however, we were not presented with such appalling practices or overt attitudes.

The 13 year old young man is still with us ( fast approaching 19) and what a joy it has been. Yes, there have been difficulties - trying to find him in shopping centres when he wagged it from school, teenage tantrums, diverting him from anti -social behaviour etc. But overall it is one of the best decision we have made - watching a troubled young man blossom into a happy, well adjusted, educated and pleasant young man has been such a joy!! Please believe me life for this young man life could have been very different, given the position he was in when he first came to us. And YES he is heterosexual - he has not caught our sexuality! Although we do pride ourselves with encouraging our young man to have an accepting attitude of people from every background and lifestyle. This young man can now interact with the rest of society on an equal footing, and make the most of the potential that he has got. One of the biggest areas we had to work with him to improve (as is the case with many Foster children) was his low self -esteem and low self respect - due to the terrible rejection and emotional abuse he had encountered with his birth parents. At first he genuinely felt worthless and blamed himself for the way his family had treated him - he thought he deserved it - because he was "bad". With gradual encouragement, helping him to see his strengths, giving him praise, helping him to see his strengths and hours of conversation for him to make sense of his past and visualize and plan for his future has helped him move from a very dark place to one with a bright future.

These children and young people need this time and commitment, and quality Foster carers are in a unique position to offer it- but it does take effort and a real child -centred perspective.

We have cared for other children for respite, a baby from a few weeks old upto 18months, and now we have been placed with another 13 year old young man - who we hope to help as constructively as our first young man.

Foster children will often test you out to see if you are going to reject them - in our first meeting with potential new children, we always say you may give up on us but we will never give up on you! As Foster Carers you have to take the good times with the bad, and find ways for you to manage stress and frustration (mine is meditation), without this self care things can sometimes become to big and overwhelming. In order to care consistently you also need to care for yourself - this is not being selfish - if you go under, so can everyone else relying on you, including your partner.

Yes, your lifestyle may have to change and sacrifices may need to be made - but these almost seem irrelevant when another persons life and future depends on you!!

Work with Social Workers professionally and constructively - but do not be messed about - and after all we get to know some of these children and young people better than any one else - our knowledge, experiences and opinions can sometimes get dismissed!!!!

The BAAF (British Association of Adoption and Fostering) can be a good source of initial and ongoing information - give it a try!
BH and RS - North West

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