Angela had been fostering for Sandwell for less than a year and had her second child in placement when interviewed.
How did you decide to become a foster carer?
I became friends with a foster carer through my work, when I was in North London and I was absolutely taken with the work. She fostered babies and I thought ‘what a great thing to be doing, what a worthy way to make a living’ and I thought ‘I’m going to look into that when I have the time’ and so that’s what I did.
So, I started fostering in London and a year after I moved here I got in touch with Sandwell. Looking back going through the approval process again was good, actually quite cathartic to think about yourself and who you are as well as why you want to do what you’re doing. Sandwell were very through, the assessor was really good and engaging, so it went well. The time was well spent.
When you were first thinking about becoming a foster carer what sort of concerns and expectations did you have?
First of all my concern was whether or not I’d actually be able to do it, whether or not I’d be able to make any kind of difference, whether or not I’d be able to sustain a placement.
My main expectation was that maybe we’d be able to show a young person that there are different ways to be part of a family, that they have choices and that despite what they may have gone through you can turn it around and go in a different direction.
Can you remember what your first placement was like?
Oh yes, very clearly – probably because we’re still in touch and I’m soon to be godmother to her child. Initially it was very difficult, very challenging, the young lady had a number of issues and took a long time to settle. But you can usually find the good somewhere.
I saw that this was a young person in pain, that she’d been let down by the people that were supposed to take care of her and we created a bond. She opened up a whole new language to me – the language of the teenage world – which I found really amusing and she liked my amusement because I didn’t know what the words they use to describe something that’s good were!
So we formed a bond, it’s not always like that of course, but I still remember her with some fondness
You originally fostered older children, why did you choose to do that?
I chose to work with teenagers, initially because it fitted in with my family situation – I had a young child of my own, so I wanted a foster child that had a level of independence, being able to get washed and dressed and out in the morning so I didn’t have two children needing the same things. Especially as this was my first time.
So I wanted an age gap, but also I was aware that older children still need just as much help, just as much guidance, and just as much support. In fact as a foster carer and a parent you probably need to be a bit more alert and on your game.
How do find the support you get as a foster carer?
My supervising social worker is excellent and I can call her at any time, we have regular reviews. I’ve found her very supportive, very interested in what’s going on and very mindful of how the placement might be impacting on my family. So that’s been really helpful.
How would you sum up the impact of foster caring on your life?
It’s been interesting, it’s been challenging, there have certainly been rewards and one of the reasons I’ve wanted to do it was to try and see if I could make a small difference to someone’s life. Just a tiny step in a different direction or to show them that there is an alternative way to be part of a family.
I think I’ve achieved that, it’s been successful and I see myself continuing to do it.
What would you say to someone who’s thinking about fostering?
I’d say become a foster carer because it’s really important. It’s a worthwhile way to make a difference to someone else. It is rewarding, it is challenging, and you do need a lot of patience. You need to approach it for the right reasons, but you do look back and think ‘yes, I made a difference to that young person’s life’ and somewhere along the line, they will remember that.
Angela has now been fostering for Sandwell for over five years and now specialises in mother and baby placements.