John and Richard’s Story
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For about 20 years or so I had been working in the IT field as a consultant and a trainer. I was beginning to look for something else in my life that would be more fulfilling and rewarding and be of some value. I had considered going into training in a college or perhaps working with young people. Being a trainer, passing on knowledge and information had been the area in IT that I had gained the most satisfaction from. In 2011, I was talking to friends who worked in the social work field and had worked with children and families and was discussing options that I could take which would allow me to work with children and young people.
One friend in particular was working for a fostering agency as a senior social worker and she asked if I had considered becoming a foster carer and after giving it some thought it was a kind of light bulb moment which seemed to fit the bill and answer most of the questions I was asking myself about what path I could take. So, we made some preliminary enquirers as to what this would involve.
As a couple we discussed the impact that such a big change might have on our lives and after reading up more information we got in touch with a fostering agency and arranged to have a chat with someone.
The biggest issues for us have been the major intrusion into your entire life and your private life in particular. The cultural change that would be required in order to complete such a task. Also, retraining for the profession as a foster carer would be quite lengthy and as we discovered the whole application process involved in completing the form F took several months but was ultimately a rewarding experience.
What do I wish I had known? I suppose there is no substitute for experience but we were given lots of help and advice and information on what kind of things to expect. I suppose ‘expect the unexpected’ would be a useful thing to know as you are never fully sure exactly what children and young people will bring into your home in terms of their past experiences and the impact it will have on you.
Also, we had to consider the impact on our wider family. We have a grown son a young grandson who was 8 at the time who we saw regularly and this change in our lives would have an impact on them and the time we would be able to spend with them. We discussed this with them and had lots of discussions with family and friends to get advice from them and their thoughts on our decision to become foster carers. The feedback we got from them was overwhelmingly supportive and positive and so pointed us in the right direction.
Equality is always a work in progress but I can honestly say that our sexuality never had any negative impact on the application process to becoming foster carers. On the contrary, same sex couples could be seen as a benefit to particular children perhaps and certainly we were aware that local authorities and fostering agencies would be quite open about having a non-discriminatory policy regarding recruitment and so we certainly hoped that our sexuality would not have any negative impact on the application process. In fact, one early placement we took on was a child who it was recommended should have strong male role models in place and the fact that two men would be responsible for looking after this child was seen as a positive benefit.
I would advise anyone thinking about becoming a foster carer to find as much information as possible by reading up, searching the Internet, talking to friends maybe with social work experience. If possible talk to other foster carers if you know any, to get an idea of how it might impact on you. It really is a 24/7 job and certainly not something you can take on lightly. It impacts every area of your life. You have to be willing to allow people into your private life and be prepared to have your own past childhood questioned and so on.
Looking back now having done the job for nine years or so, I can see that we made the right decision and have not one regret about having taken on this very rewarding, life changing role.