Sharon and David Radford began fostering after having enjoyed parenting their own 2 children. Before they knew it their children had grown into mature young adults who no longer needed so much of their time, and so they began their foster care journey – an experience they both found enlightening.
‘I learnt so much about myself. For me parts of the process were very difficult, it was a form of counselling and I had to revisit some difficult periods from my life and deal with some issues.
David found the process to be fine however, on occasion felt it was slightly intrusive.
Chloe our daughter, who at the time was 17, loved it and sat in on most sessions and asked questions. She found it to be all very interesting. Luke who is shy and was 19 at the time only offered information when asked, I know he found it to be a long process.’
When Chloe left for university at the age of 18, Sharon had so many mixed emotions. She was proud of her but missed her company. Luke had only recently left home himself and she was also missing him.
‘We missed the chaos, the noise, the laughter and the joy that we had experienced as parents. We still had so much more to give and felt that we had the skills and patience to offer a fresh start with a bright future to children and young people that had experienced a difficult start to their lives.’
Sharon and David waited months for their first placement. They were nervous but also excited as they had had the opportunity to meet the young person who was to become part of their family a few times before the placement date. They had undertaken a parenting course at a local college prior to the young person joining them and felt we were equipped and ready for the challenge ahead.
Sharon said about her first experience:
‘The main difference that we have experienced is that the young person we have with us has not been nurtured from birth like your own children.
They are very angry and deeply hurt, they build up barriers to protect their feelings. It takes time, patience and understanding to build up a relationship with trust, which can disappear in an instance. They rebel and test your loyalty, pushing your buttons to test you sometimes to the limit.
It can prove to be a long process but with time patience and persistence rewards are sure to come as they slowly learn to trust.
The key similarities to bringing up our birth children and nurturing looked after children is that they all thrive in a loving stable safe home with boundaries, a structured routine and consistency.’
‘We have been supported by all our Capstone supervising social workers and when faced with difficult times Capstone have always supported and guided us through the storms. They have also been there to share the good times and recognise the hard work we do. We are offered training and support, we feel valued and appreciated.’