Monday, 14 May 2012

What does it mean to be a foster carer?

To celebrate the start of Foster Care Fortnight (14-27 May), we have teamed with the BBC to produce an inspirational video highlighting the amazing work that foster carers do. Today on the blog, we hear from one of our contributors, Niki, who reveals what it means to her to be a foster carer.

A day in my life is never dull, one minute I could be playing on a trampoline, the next picking daisies or perhaps visiting a museum or zoo. Recently I took part in a film for BAAF on what it means to be a foster carer – never in my wildest dreams did I expect to spend part of the day in my dressing gown reading stories on camera! Like all experiences related to foster care this was incredibly rewarding and offered me the opportunity to share the love and commitment I have for my job and my fellow human beings. Somehow describing foster caring as a ‘job’ feels fundamentally wrong, it is more of a vocation. Nothing else quite measures up.

It is not a run of the mill nine to five occupation; it is unlike any other profession. There are no set hours, no two days are ever the same and no two placements are ever the same because all children and young people are individuals. One minute I may be changing nappies, the next perhaps completing documents to submit to the courts – this of course is the serious side of foster caring. You have a responsibility to keep records, a need to keep up to date with training, you are accountable for the children in your care and as such must ensure that you are performing to the best of your ability – this takes time, it takes energy and it takes tenacity. Foster caring is not for the faint hearted!

A foster carer is to all intents and purposes a substitute parent – we raise the children in our care as if they are our own, we love them, worry about them, rejoice in their achievements, hurt when they hurt, laugh when they laugh, they belong to our family. We also share them with their own birth families. Most foster children still have contact with their families and it is part of our role to encourage this special relationship. Contact of course is not always an easy arrangement, family circumstances can be complex; relationships difficult and when contact is no longer feasible the foster carer will be there to continue to offer love and support unconditionally. When the time comes for a child to move on, it is the foster carer that ensures a smooth transition.

Each child or young person needs the space and time to make sense of their previous life experiences whilst also being encouraged to take those vital steps forwards; either back to their families or onto another life. Of course we will be left behind with our tissues and our memories but a piece of our heart always goes along side each and every child or young person; we will never forget them or the joy they have brought to our lives and we can rejoice in another job well done.

That is the essence of why I feel foster caring is so special, once in the role, very few decide to leave for no other job offers the hope, the happiness and the pleasure of fostering caring. Ultimately I am a foster carer because unlike every other profession I have experienced, this is the only one to ever give love back and in abundance.

Click 'play' below to watch BAAF's Foster Care Film.

If you would like more information on fostering or are considering becoming a foster carer, please visit the main BAAF website. For more stories from foster carers, why not visit our online bookstore?

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