This month we spoke with one of Chrysalis Care’s foster carers, Temi, who lives in Kent.
Temi is a single carer, who transferred her approval to Chrysalis Care from another fostering agency and has now been fostering for just over two years. In this short space of time, Temi has looked after eight placements, including respite, parent and child and an emergency placement.
Here Temi shares her journey into fostering, including some of the challenges and rewards she has faced.
Fostering is something I’ve always wanted to do. I was raised by an English foster family in a private fostering arrangement. My sister was already living there and when I was born, I joined her and then when my younger brother was born he joined us!
My foster mum said that for many Nigerian parents, back then, they saw fostering as another form of childcare; so I grew up in this family that was, for me, probably the best thing my father did for us to be honest. I had such a good experience that it’s just something I’ve always had in my heart to do.
I was thinking about fostering for years before I contacted a fostering agency, as the timing was never right; either we didn’t have the space and when I was with my husband, he was like, “yeah, yeah, yeah – fostering” but I don’t think he fully understood what it would entail! It was when my children went off to uni and started doing their own thing, that was when we had the space but then my husband and I separated. It was after that, that the opportunity arose to start fostering.
To be honest, I found the fostering assessment so intrusive! There were lots of things that I hadn’t really talked about in years but it didn’t make me think twice about fostering though. There were lots of questions to do with my personal life, which was the thing that I found the hardest. However, I learned that I’m actually a very strong person. I am a Christian and looking back over the years, it’s actually evident how I’ve gained that strength in me.
Alongside my faith, I have a good support network. My son’s soon going to be aged 25 and he’s my back-up carer. He has his own space at the top of the house, so he’s very close by and he works around the corner from home, so that works perfectly. My older daughter is at home from uni at the moment and she’s doing her Masters, so she helps out as and when. Then my youngest daughter is almost 12 years old and doing very well at school, she is very welcoming, patient and understanding of all of the children so far.
I receive lots of support from my supervising social worker, who under normal circumstances I would see frequently but due to lockdown she is always on the phone, sending text messages or emails to check if we are ok and if I ask her a question and she doesn’t know she’ll find out and get back to me straightaway.
Fostering has been really diverse. At the moment, I am looking after a parent and their child but I’ve done respite and I’ve also taken emergency placements, in the past, which was a challenge! I received a phone call at about 10 at night, wanting to know if I could collect a child from a police station. She’d been removed from her home, the agency was able to forward me information about her background and I was able to go through it all beforehand, just so I had a idea of what had been going on, so i could try to make things easier for her to settle in and make the situation as best I could for her.
When I got that first phone call to foster, the first feeling I had was uncertainty, because you have a description on paper but you’ve never met the child and you don’t know what they’re really like or what they need. Then when you read a bit more and you understand a bit more, you start to feel empathy towards the child, what they’ve been through and what has got them to that point.
‘Moving in day’ is kind of full of so many worries and anxieties and what-ifs… what if they don’t settle, what if my kids don’t settle, or don’t get used to this person, lots and lots of different things go through your mind. What if they don’t like the room? What if they don’t like my cooking? When they arrive there’s usually a bit of excitement; it’s about new beginnings.
Sometimes, it can be challenging. We had a little boy once, age 9 at the time, for respite, which became a bridging placement and initially he was great, really friendly and seemed to get on well with everybody. He could talk for England and drive you mad but he was a pleasant and good child.
However, when he moved in, he suddenly started to take everything out on my daughter. If he didn’t like something or if he was asked to do something, he would get so angry. So, even though on paper and when he first arrived everything was fine, there was that sudden turn and he just couldn’t live with another child of a similar age and share an adult and space with her.
Looking back, he was dealing with a lot of issues with his other siblings and when he was with his family. His siblings were never nice to each other, they were always really awful to each other and I think because my daughter was closest in age to him, she bore the brunt. It was very tough to end the placement, quite heart breaking and when he was leaving us, he gave me such a big smile and a big hug. I don’t know whether he found it hard to control his emotions and didn’t know how to express himself but it was just unfortunate because he was a lovely little boy, but he needed a famlily that could support his needs and give hime the one to one time he deserved.
One of the highlights of fostering is having a child smile, especially when they’ve been quite closed off to you and not sharing any kind of emotion with you, to then suddenly one day, they really smile and actually want to give you a hug, that’s very rewarding and it makes fostering worth it.