Fostering can be a life-changing experience for all those involved.
Neil and Julie are two of our foster carers from Wales. In this Foster Carer Feature, they sat down with us to talk about their fostering experience so far, including how it’s transformed their lives for the better. Read on to find out what they said.
How long have you been a foster carer with Compass?
“We’ve been fostering with Compass for two years. We passed panel June the 4th, 2020 – when we were still in lockdown. We’d been looking into fostering for five or six years before we actually did it.
We’d made an enquiry at one point, but our attic needed properly converting first, and Compass told us that once we had, we should come back to them – because they thought we would be ideal. So, we put it on the back burner until the time felt right, and went straight back to Compass when we felt ready again.”
How has your fostering experience been so far?
“Well, our foster child, E, came to us July the 10th – and is still with us. She’s with us in a long-term arrangement. So, we’ve only actually had one foster child. It’s turned out absolutely perfectly.
Fostering is the chance to give a child a childhood.
We’ve got two children at home, who were 14 and 9 when we first started. We told our Assessing Social Worker, who was brilliant, that we would (ideally) like someone younger and we said from the beginning that we would prefer a long-term arrangement.
We’re lucky, because we know that sometimes your preferences aren’t guaranteed, and sometimes it’s just the way it works. But she’s everything we could have hoped for.”
What made you want to get into fostering?
“We’ve always had a lively house, with big holidays and Christmases. We wanted to give that to someone who had not had the chance to experience it, and were looking for someone who embraced our household and everything we had to give.
Fostering is the chance to give a child a childhood, really. We wanted to look after a child and give them a life they may not have had beforehand.”
What was it like when you received your first fostering match?
“Our first call was on a Wednesday night; the Family Finding Team thought they had found a good match for us. The only difference was the little girl was autistic, which is something we hadn’t considered.
They said they really think she’d thrive with us in our family environment. And so far, for all of us, it’s been a really, really good match.
We said yes – I (Neil) have got two autistic nieces, so I’m used to being around it, but not full time. When we came off the call, we thought they might look for more specialist carers.
But then we got a call on the Thursday afternoon, and they told us they’d really like to place her with us, as they thought we’d be great for her. The only thing was – could she come tomorrow? That was a bit of a surprise! But they said they really think she’d thrive with us in our family environment. And so far, for all of us, it’s been a really, really good match.”
Did you have any initial concerns or worries?
“Well, we knew that, sometimes, fostering matches just don’t work – for whatever reason. The safety of our birth children was our priority, really; we needed clarification that our children were always going to be okay. We didn’t want to go any further if our children would be at risk.
Compass gave us plenty of reassurance. They really helped to put our minds at ease.
But our Assessing Social Worker and Compass gave us plenty of reassurance. They really helped to put our minds at ease. Helen, who was our Supervising Social Worker at the time, was fantastic and advised us all the way. She always advocated for us and worked to find a situation that would work for everyone.”
What have some of your biggest challenges been when it comes to fostering?
“Our foster child was nonverbal when she came to us. She couldn’t communicate, other than grabbing your hand or crying. She was 4 and was permanently in nappies, wouldn’t use cutlery and would drink out of a baby bottle only. So, we had a lot to learn, including finding a way of communicating with her, and her with us.
This included our two birth children as well, who have also had to make some adjustments. For example, in the evenings, I (Julie) put her to bed. That can sometimes take away two hours of my time; our kids have had to adapt to the fact I might not be around for a few hours. But they’ve adapted brilliantly to it.
Really, it’s simple little things that we’ve had to change. We knew that, because she was a child with autism, there were certain things we needed to put in place to keep her safe. There was also a lot of learning, including knowing there are certain triggers for her – that we now avoid.
Now, we have to think a bit more about where we go and what we do now to make sure it’s suitable for her. Because E has autism, she likes her routines, so our lives require a bit more organisation and planning. But now we’re aware of it all, it’s automatic.”
Have there ever been any times when you thought about giving up fostering? Why didn’t you?
“If it was just a job for us, we likely wouldn’t continue as we have. We understand that people foster for different reasons, but it just wouldn’t work for us in that way. For us, it’s so much more than that.
E is part of our family; we have three children now. We wouldn’t just be giving up fostering; we’d be giving up E.
We don’t really think of it as just fostering anymore. E is part of our family; we have three children now. We wouldn’t just be giving up fostering; we’d be giving up E. And that’s something we just couldn’t contemplate.”
What has been the most rewarding part of fostering?
“E has moved along just amazingly. As time has gone on, she’s saying more and more. Now, she’s started to put words together. There are new successes every day.
At School, she’s started calling us Mummy and Daddy, especially when they do drawings of their family. The other day, when we came back from swimming, Julie wasn’t home. As we pulled up, she said ‘Mummy no car,’ which is amazing coming from a girl who, two years ago, couldn’t say anything. We love seeing where she came from, and where she is now.
As a family, we’ve learned we’re adaptable. We can handle whatever is thrown at us and can take it in our stride.
We’ve been asked a few times whether fostering is what we wanted, and what we expected. Yes, absolutely it’s what we wanted. But what we didn’t expect is what fostering would give us in return.
When we started out, we thought that fostering would be a one-way thing. We thought a child would come in, and we would care for them, and it would be great for the child. But we never thought or considered how much the child would bring us. Our little girl is pure mischief; she’s fun, she laughs lots, and she’s got a wicked sense of humour. She’s added so much laughter to our house.
But another thing we’ve seen is how much our birth children have got out of it. To see how they have recognised her needs and learned to communicate with her, to see their progression and their understanding, and the way they’ve learned how to approach her differently – that’s been so rewarding.
As a family, we’ve learned we’re adaptable. We can handle whatever is thrown at us and can take it in our stride.”
What would you say to someone considering becoming a foster carer?
“We’ve actually spoken to a few people about this. The easy thing to say is ‘go for it, it’s brilliant!’ – but we know it’s more complicated than that. It’s been brilliant for us and has been brilliant for many other people – but there is a lot to consider.
If you do it because you really want to make a difference, then it can be incredible.
We always say that you need to make sure you have the right motivation for it. It has to be for the right reasons, and something that you really want to do. If you do it because you really want to make a difference, then it can be incredible.
If you’re thinking about it, it’s important to do your research. Get as much information as you can. Speak to people who do it (if you can). Ask questions. Research training and the role and responsibilities of a foster carer. Talk about it with your family and friends. Read other people’s stories, and find out what fostering might really mean for you. The assessment process will also help you so much in thinking why you want to do it.
If fostering works for you, it will bring you far more than you expect it to. “
Find out more about fostering with Compass here.
Alternatively, if you think you could make a difference to the life of a vulnerable child, please get in touch with us to find out more about foster care. Our team will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
While important and (often) lifechanging, coming into foster care can be a stressful experience for children and young people.
Foster care may be their first time away from their family home. Regardless of whether they wanted to leave their birth family, entering a foster home for the first time is a new, unfamiliar environment for children and young people. It’s bound to bring up various mixed feelings and anxieties.
S is one our foster children. She and her brothers live with our Compass foster carer, Heidi. As a foster child herself, S knows what it feels like to enter a new foster home.
To help children in foster care settle into their homes, S wrote them a welcome letter! Every foster child at Compass will receive a copy of S’ welcome letter to foster children upon moving in with their foster family and S hopes her letter will reassure and comfort her fellow foster children.
You can read her letter to foster children below.
I know how it feels right now, maybe you’re feeling scared and excited? Just like I was feeling. I came into care with my brothers and sister and at first, we were rushing through the door (I was 7, my sister was 11, and my brothers were both 6 at the time), but my sister went to another house.
We were so excited and thinking it was kinda cool to meet new people but then I started to think of things I missed… and about my future. I didn’t know what was gonna happen or what my future would look like.
When I met my foster carer Heidi, she was really nice and we did a load of stuff together that maybe I wouldn’t have done if I was at home.
What made a big difference to me was I had to move schools and leaving my best friends behind. BUT I made loads of new friends. They were really kind and helpful. Even though it felt like a loss, I gained so much and so will you.
I missed my mum and family and being able to spend time with her, (and I still do sometimes), and I’m sure you will miss your family too, BUT it’s not as bad as you might think it will be, and hopefully this letter will make you feel a bit better about everything- I wish I had a letter to tell me this too, because it can make a difference to hear it from someone else and to know you’re not the only one.
If you need to talk to someone, talk to your social worker- they will help you! It’s alright to feel this way… YOU WILL BE OKAY!
From S 😊
We absolutely love S’ welcome letter to a foster child and are sure her words will go a long way in reassuring her fellow foster children.
At Compass Fostering, we do everything in our power to help make the moving-in process as seamless and stress-free as possible for our children. Our brilliant foster carers are given the training and knowledge they need to provide outstanding care for our foster children, and we support them every step of the way.
Hello! I’m Matt.
I’m a Compass foster carer from the South. I’m father to 3 beautiful grown-up daughters and married to my wonderful wife (and partner in crime) Dawn. Welcome back to the second instalment of my blog, The Foster Carer Wellbeing Diary!
I know that we, as foster carers, spend most of our time looking after others. With so much going on, it’s easy to forget to take some time for ourselves.
That’s why, this week, we’ll be looking at how you can find balance in your busy lives and make some space for positive change.
How balanced and mindful are you in your daily life?
Are you someone that has routine applied to everything you do? Or are you, like most of the population, a little chaotic and reactive to whatever the day throws at you?
One of the simplest ways to look at living a healthy and balanced life is to firstly accept that we can’t always control every aspect of our lives. It’s important to understand that there are multiple external factors that affect our routine and choices.
As foster carers we can spend the majority of our time looking after the needs and emotions of the young people we care for. It can be very easy to forget to look after ourselves or take time for self-care and our own emotions.
But it is just as important for us to take time for ourselves! After all, if we find ourselves in poor health or mentally burnt out, our ability to fully care for the young people around us is reduced.
As a father to 3 young women, I have my hands full at times. Nevertheless, I have always wished to be a positive role model for them (harder at times than I care to admit). Part of this also means living the words I preach!
I am very blessed that they are all very much aware of their nutrition, health and how to take care of themselves properly. They not only inspire me to be better as a parent, but most importantly, they have become fantastic role models for the young foster child we have living with us.
A Quick Honesty Exercise
For this blog, I’d like to begin by exploring the idea of Balance and Moderation. But, as I mentioned in my previous blog, Setting Yourself Up For Success, we have to start with being honest with ourselves.
Find 5 minutes to yourself and look in the mirror. This may feel strange at first, but bear with me! Now, take a moment and tell yourself 5 things you know you have control of – things that you class as your ‘positive’ habits. As an example:
- Do you eat enough fruit and veg each day?
- Do you undertake some form of daily physical activity (Walking, Running, Gym, Cycling)?
- Do you get enough sleep?
Now, think of 5 things you feel you could improve. These might be things that you keep putting off until tomorrow (remember tomorrow will have its own challenges!).
Look at yourself and say the words to yourself. Examples are:
- I eat too much chocolate, sweets, or cake.
- I drive everywhere – even to the shop at the end of the street.
- I have 3 sugars in every cup of tea.
These two lists both tell us something different about the daily choices we make.
The first list is one that we can give ourselves a high five in the mirror for, things we are already in control of. Theses habits are proof that we can succeed.
The second list might be more difficult to accept. It can be hard to admit we have negatives habits and excuses as to why the person in the mirror isn’t all that we would like them to be. But this doesn’t mean they can’t be!
The 3 Factors of Change
Perfection isn’t our goal here, nor is it achievable. But what we can do is try to be the very best version of ourselves. Each step we take, and each little change makes a difference.
One thing I have learnt of my many years of supporting change in people is that real change comes from 3 key factors:
- Accepting change needs to happen
- Setting the right and honest goals for what we want change to be
- Making small and consistent changes
It can be easy to set ourselves too much change too soon. I recommend trying to think about building a pyramid – the blocks of change and choices we make create the wide and strong base for our journey. As the layers are added, the pyramid rises towards the final block: toward success and real long-term change in our lives.
If we just stack the blocks like a tower, it can be all too easy for the wind of excuses or shaking of a bad day to topple the tower. (This is classed as a lapse or relapse; we will discuss these and coping mechanisms along with goals in a later blog.)
Now, it’s important to note that moderation is key. We can’t only focus on the negatives and restrictions we have placed on ourselves.
Cutting out all of the things we enjoy (such as ‘forbidden foods’ or no more TV in the evenings) will only set us up for failure in the long term. We must allow ourselves to enjoy some of these things, embrace them and accept that with hard work and commitment comes reward.
So don’t be too hard on yourselves. Have a little of your vice (maybe chocolate, glass of wine, etc) but try to use this as a reward for being good in your day.
Finding Balance: An Example
It’s the young person in your care’s birthday. You have put on a fantastic spread of sausage rolls, pineapple and cheese sticks, crisps and of course – the birthday cake. Your first instinct might be to restrict yourself here or cut yourself off from enjoying this experience fully. Don’t!
Allow yourself to be part of the moment. Enjoy the food along with the children and other guests. Balance can be achieved by either later in the day taking an extended walk with the dog, or possibly just ensuring breakfast and lunch that day were healthy choices
Knowing Where to Start
With all of this in mind, let’s look at some key aspects to living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. This includes some of the Government guidelines and some of the key areas you can focus on to really make a difference. These areas of control are Diet & Nutrition, Sleep, and Exercise.
They are well recognised as being the areas that individuals can control and importantly make small and manageable changes too that will very quickly make you feel healthier and positive about yourself.
We will discuss each of these in more detail in next month’s blog, looking at how you might fit them into your lives. We’ll explore different ways to make sure you are getting the right nutrition, how to prepare and set yoursel up for a good night’s sleep and, finally, options for exercise that might work for you.
In the meantime, try to consider these areas and how much time you dedicate to each of them in your day-to-day life.
But most importantly, try not to be too hard on yourselves when looking in the mirror!
Remember you are doing an amazing job looking after the needs of a young person whose life is already benefitting from the care and support you are giving them.
I am sure many of you already have plenty balance in their lives. Some of you maybe need a little fine tuning and others may be feeling there is a very long list of things they would like to change. As I started this blog, I mentioned how honesty in our current situation is a key part of any journey to change.
We are all unique, in person and situation – the challenges we face are varied and complicated. You are already one step ahead if you have managed to get to the end of this blog!
Thanks for reading. I look forward to sharing with you all again next month.
Hello! I’m Matt.
I’m a Compass foster carer from the South. I’m father to 3 beautiful grown-up daughters, and married to my wonderful wife (and partner in crime) Dawn. As a foster carer myself, I know how challenging it can be to find time for yourself.
Fortunately, I have 29 years experience delivering Health and Fitness training from my time in the army. Following my retirement, I’m now looking to share my knowledge and expertise with my fellow foster carers.
I hope that the information and advice shared in these monthly blogs will encourage foster carers to make positive changes and, most importantly, take some time to care for themselves.
As carers, we spend the majority of our time thinking about and caring for others.
But, I wonder, how much time you take looking after yourself or reflecting on your own behaviours?
Our own health and wellbeing can easily be put to the back of our minds, especially when we can be prioritising childcare, family, work and household jobs – to name but a few.
Many sectors of industry are focusing on the Workplace Health & Wellbeing of their employees, but for us carers, our workplace is our family home.
It can sometimes be hard to distinguish where home life stops, and work begins; often, it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Time to ourselves is often spent sinking into the sofa and shutting off to the world for as long as we can manage.
I’m on a mission to change that, with my new monthly blog, ‘The Foster Carer Wellbeing Diary’. These monthly blogs will focus on health behaviours and wellbeing, looking at how the choices we can make can benefit not only our own lives, but the lives of our families and the young people we look after.
Each month I will explore a new topic, sharing my experiences and knowledge along with sign posting you to resources you can access to support positive changes.
A Little About Me
Before all that, though, I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself and hopefully give you an understanding of why I am writing these blogs.
My name is Matt. I am a 46 year old father to 3 beautiful grown-up daughters, and I am married to my wife (and long term partner in crime) Dawn. Just like you, we are foster carers, who are continually working to find some balance in this non-stop rollercoaster of life.
Having recently retired after 29 years in the Army, this is the first time in my adult life that I have complete freedom of choice and can truly make the choices in life that I want and importantly when I want.
For the past 25 years I have been fortunate enough to deliver Health & Fitness support to soldiers in many different capacities, from training soldiers for overseas operations, to mentoring future leaders at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
Throughout my last 6 years in the army, I was given the privilege of running health & wellbeing advisor training courses, alongside organising many other health training and campaigns. A personal highlight for me was my being invited to deliver a presentation at the International Congress of Physical Performance in Quebec, Canada!
Overall, it has certainly been a journey of challenges and learning. In later blogs, I hope to reflect more on some of my own challenges and explain how I have found balance as a foster carer.
What Will We Cover?
Over the years I have helped more than 2,000 service personnel, countless friends, and family members with their individual journeys.
I know that when it comes to health and wellbeing, there are so many sources of information that at times, it can feel like too much to take in. That, and, depending on where you are looking, there are some very contradictory opinions on what can or can’t work for you.
I am passionate about helping others and hope that you not only find these blogs interesting and informative, but also easy to follow for your own journey. Through these blogs, I hope to pass on many of the tips and education I have picked up over my career.
Some of the topics we will look at together include:
- Diet Facts and myths
- The benefits of being physically active
- Building our own resilience and coping mechanisms
- Smoking and Alcohol
- Understanding our own Health Behaviours
- Finding balance in life
- Weight Management
- Benefits of Sleep & Good Routine
Setting Yourself Up for Success with Honesty
When it comes to health and wellbeing, if I told you there is one model that fits all, I would be lying. As individuals, we are all different – facing our own challenges and barriers to making positive choices in life.
One of the most important parts of self-care is self-reflection and being honest with ourselves about where we are in life today. Who are you? What is important to you? What do you need? Do you accept yourself and, most importantly, are you being honest with your answers? Self-efficacy, taking personal responsibility and owning who we are can be a very difficult thing to do.
The person we like to show others isn’t always the person we see ourselves as. I call this the “Facebook version” of ourselves – the positives often hiding the negatives, the pictures of the good times that are often only snapshots of our days, sometimes filtered or edited.
So, my first question to you all, is “Who are You?”. When you look in the mirror, who do you truly see? Ask yourselves: do I really see me in the mirror, and what does that mean? When I personally look in the mirror and start any journey of self-exploration or change, I ask this question to myself.
Hopefully this first blog has caught your attention, I look forward to sharing with you all again next month.
If you enjoyed Matt Arlow’s foster carer health and wellbeing blog, be sure to check the ‘blog’ tag section on the Infocentre for more!
The role of a Supervising Social Worker can be both challenging and rewarding at times.
At Compass, our social workers are an essential, valued part of our community. They embody our ethos, committed to making a lasting and lifelong difference to the lives of the children and young people in our care.
That’s why, for World Social Work Day 2022, we wanted to take the time to celebrate the positive impact that our social workers have within our community.
Throughout their fostering experience, our foster carers and foster children have access to constant support and guidance from their personal supervising social workers. Our social workers are committed to their work, helping to calm nerves, soothe anxieties, find solutions to problems and advocate for the overall wellbeing of their foster carers and children.
One of our Compass foster carers, Shani, explained to us how her supervising social worker helps her and her foster child to feel ‘very supported.’
With her supervising social worker, Shani says she feels safe to ‘discuss any issues that may arise and discuss the progress of how (she) is getting on, and how the children are getting on.’
‘It feels like there’s always somebody there that you can talk to.’
Our social workers receive a range of training to ensure they can provide holistic emotional and professional support for our carers, young people, and children.
Each of our social workers is highly skilled, possessing a variety of unique strengths, knowledge and experiences that help them in providing tailored support. This support begins from the moment our foster carers start their fostering journey with Compass.
Rehana and Peter have been fostering with Compass for some time now. Yet, when they first became foster carers, they were anxious about the impact that fostering might have on their birth children and family dynamic.
However, Rehana explained how their supervising social worker ‘put (them) at ease’, helping to ‘put aside the anxieties (they) had for (their) children,’ and aiding family in feeling settled and at ease when welcoming their first foster child.
We know that the issues that social workers deal with are seldom straightforward or easy-going. Many of the children and young people in our care have experienced trauma and instability throughout their lives. This means they may suffer from a range of issues, including attachment trauma, complex behavioural issues, depression, or neurological conditions like Autism and ADHD.
These issues require specialised care and support from both foster carers and their social workers. An important part of being a supervising social worker is providing foster carers with the information they need, signposting carers toward the right help, training, and guidance.
One of our foster carers, Sara, describes her Supervising Social Worker, Steph, as ‘an encyclopaedia of information.’
‘Her existing database in her brain is phenomenal.’
Sara’s supervising social worker, Steph, ‘gives (her) pre-emptive advice and information’ about the challenges that Sara might face in her fostering journey, all of which is ‘bang on point, every single time.’
For foster carers and foster children, this breadth of knowledge is essential. Our social workers help our foster carers by facilitating their personal development, all while ensuring that their foster children receive high-quality, needs-specific care that caters to their individual experiences.
At Compass, we know that the work our supervising social workers do is invaluable.
For our social workers, supporting foster families through tough times and ensuring that our vulnerable young people and children are safe and well looked after requires a lot of energy, patience, and emotional resilience.
However, our social workers are always committed to providing the best support possible for our community. We are incredibly thankful to all our social workers, for the work they do.
If you’re thinking of becoming a supervising social worker with Compass, or would like to know more, you can find out How to Become a Supervising Social Worker here.
Alternatively, if you have more questions regarding fostering, you can get in touch with us here.
We love to share our real life foster carer’s stories. There are so many different circumstances that everyone comes from, along with varied background and rich cultural lives- it’d be a shame not to celebrate them!
At Compass we champion diversity, and we look for the positives in everyone that applies to be a foster carer with us. We always search for ways in which being a foster carer can work for people, instead of reasons why they shouldn’t be one.
That’s what our ‘Potential Not Perfection’ motto is all about. It’s important to look at the side of everyone’s experience from many points, seeing how we can help you make being a foster carer fit into your lifestyle.
Take a look at a couple of our carer’s stories, we have families from all walks of life who have provided amazing homes for vulnerable children.
Working Fulltime: Emma and Simon’s Story
Emma and Simon have been part of the Compass Central region since June 2021. When the couple entered their fostering journey, they were unsure if they would be suitable to foster as they had not had any children of their own and were working full time. They have always known that they wanted to help a child and had looked at other options such as adoption but having spoken to Compass they decided to start their journey to become foster carers.
Compass saw the potential with Emma and Simon and during the assessment process looked at the flexibility of their employment and transferrable skills they could bring to fostering. We allowed the assessment process to make the decision whether or not they should or could foster.
Just two months after their approval, Emma and Simon welcomed two children into their home, aged 5 and 7 years old, and are now a busy household of four! Both children are now settled in new schools, having joined activities outside of school, like football and swimming.
A Hectic Household: Vernon and Steve’s Story
Vernon and Steve have been fostering with Compass since January 2020. They applied after adopting 3 children, aged 11, 8, and 5 years old. The couple reached out to Compass to see if it would be possible to look after a foster child alongside their adoptive children. They wanted to continue to help other vulnerable young children.
We welcomed Vernon and Steve into the fostering assessment process, and when approved as carers, Vernon and Steve worked closely with the Family Finding and Operations team to find the right child to come and live in their home. Initially it was thought that this would be one child, however 4 months later they welcomed not one, but three children into their home! A sibling group, twins aged 7 and an 8-year-old.
All the children are settled, and Vernon and Steve now have a busy household of 8!
Compass let the assessment process (and Vernon and Steve!) determine whether they were ready to foster after going through the process of adopting their children. Having a busy household should not stand in people’s way of considering whether to foster.
Thank you, Vernon and Steve and Emma and Simon, for making a lasting difference to children’s lives.
Please get in touch with us today if you would like to find out more information about becoming a foster carer.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to foster carer eligibility and LGBT+ parenting.
Many people believe that certain factors like age, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, or religion might prevent them from becoming foster parents. 8 in 10 LGBTQIA+ people believe that they will face barriers or discrimination when applying to become foster carers.
At Compass, this is not the case; we actively welcome foster carers from all backgrounds. We believe in seeing everyone’s potential as a foster carer, regardless of their sexual orientations or gender identities. We know these things have no bearing on a person’s ability to be a brilliant foster carer.
Mark and Nick have been fostering with us for over 9 years. When they were first looking at becoming foster carers, they too were conscious of how their sexuality would impact their experience as foster carers.
You can read more about Mark and Nick’s fostering journey, in their own words, below.
Mark and Nick’s Fostering Story
Adoption was the first call for us when we started on this journey, but we decided after a lengthy waiting time to think about the benefits we could give to many different children and young people by fostering.
Initially, we feared what people would think of a gay couple looking after someone else’s child, but we are strong couple and knew we could address any challenges sent to “test” us and thought to ourselves “if others can do it, why can’t we?”.
We did some research, and after hearing a radio advertisement for Compass Fostering, we called them about fostering. I wanted to ensure that we wouldn’t be turned down due to our sexuality: what would we do if this happened, how would we feel?
We first talked to Compass over the phone, and they arranged for a social worker from Compass Fostering to come and see us.
She spent a few hours talking to us in our home where we felt safe and comfortable. We talked about us, our lives and everything that was in it, as well as asking why we had chosen to look into fostering.
She made us feel really at ease and it was only afterwards that she said she was leaving paperwork for us to complete. Paperwork was an understatement; this was a book we were writing!
This was just the start of our assessment process to become carers. The assessment process was very intrusive; we looked back on all aspects of our lives. When we were given our assessment report to read, both Nick and I were quite emotional. It was such an emotional journey, and our assessor had captured us exceptionally well.
Despite the process being in-depth, we fully appreciated the need for this. When looking after another person’s child you need to ensure that they will be safe.
Finally, we went to panel – and were accepted as foster carers. It was a scary experience; when the panel leader came out to tell us we had passed, Nick cried. We were delighted when we heard we were going to be recommended for approval.
It was not long before our first child was placed with us. We have had 4 fostering arrangements in total and 3 children are still with us now. 1 of them is in a ‘staying put’ arrangement and the other 2 are on ‘long term matches’, which effectively means they stay with us until they are at least 18.
We really enjoy our fostering life and having seen the children grow from strength to strength and achieve awards for everything they put their minds to is reward enough for us.
We’d urge other gay and lesbian couples to come forward and foster too. Like us, we suspect many couples don’t come forward because they are worried about what society will think.
We know that there are many couples out there who could offer wonderful homes for children who need to be safe, nurtured and loved.
You don’t just open your home when fostering, you open your heart, your mind and a whole new way of life for all involved.
Mark and Nick have gone on to achieve incredible things as LGBTQIA+ foster carers with Compass, and we are so pleased to have them with us.
Alongside fostering three brilliant boys, Mark and Nick won FosterTalk’s New Carers of the Year award in 2014! The award sought to recognise the incredible things that Mark and Nick have been doing as foster carer ambassadors.
If you think you could provide a safe and caring environment for a vulnerable young person, please get in touch with us to find out more about foster care! Our welcoming team will be happy to take you through any questions you may have.
The journey to becoming a foster carer with Compass has various different steps!
The final stage of your fostering assessment journey is the fostering panel, where a recommendation about your suitability to be a foster carer is made.
Usually, our panels are led by individuals who are care-experienced and/or have a range of skills and experience in childcare, fostering, social work, health and education. However, on this occasion, we thought we’d try something a little bit different.
Instead of standard fostering panel members, we invited some of our very own young people from the North to conduct a mock panel!
New applicant foster carers, Nikki and Andy, agreed to sit down with our young people C, S, L, G, and T and answer a range of questions about fostering, in order to determine whether or not they would make good foster carers.
Below are some of our favourite questions from the mock panel, alongside Nikki and Andy’s answers!
Why do you want to be foster carers?
“We cannot have our own children and because I (Nikki) worked in a school as a teacher I thought it would be good to look after children in my home and give them a good start. I (Andy) would really enjoy having children in the home and I will still be at work, but I can be flexible so I can attend meetings or events.”
If you could be any animal or bird, what would you be and why?
“I (Nikki) would be a Robin because I love Christmas and love the red breast and it brings happy memories for me. I (Andy) would like to be a dolphin because I am not a good swimmer, and I would like to learn to swim.”
What would you do if a child did not like a food?
“I (Andy) would try and cook something different and if they hated it, I would ask them why, but we would always encourage a child to eat healthily but with some treats.”
Do you have ketchup in your house?
“Andy likes ketchup and I (Nikki) like brown sauce so we would have lots of different things in our cupboard.”
If a child was going through a rough time, how would you help them?
“We would let them know that we were here for them and give them some space and maybe leave some little notes to say we are ready when you are to talk, and we would try and do it in a nice way and we would ask if they wanted to write it down and let us read it so that we could talk after. We would just make sure that they knew we are there for them at all times.”
Following the interview section of the panel, our young people met in private to discuss Nikki and Andy’s answers. They worked together to identify any strengths or areas for development that Nikki and Andy might have.
Nikki and Andy’s strengths included enjoying football, wanting to make children happy, understanding sexuality and gender, talking to people, and understanding how to calm children down.
Their areas for development included not always being able to cook the right food and not being good at gardening.
After much discussion, our young-person’s panel came to the unanimous decision that they would recommend Nikki and Andy for approval, stating they would make brilliant foster carers!
In their feedback to Nikki and Andy, our young people said:
The panel commented on Nikki and Andy’s ability to answer questions well, their openness and flexibility, their willingness to do training and the great support they would provide a child.
‘Any child would be excited living with you, and you will make them feel wanted and welcome and so happy and you will care for them really well.’
We’re sure Nikki and Andy left feeling much more confident for their real fostering panel, and we wish them the best of luck.
We are so proud of our young people for asking some wonderful questions, which we will absolutely keep in mind for future panels!
If you’re interested to learn more about fostering or would like to become a foster carer like Nikki and Andy, get in touch! Our friendly local team would be happy to answer any of your questions.
At Compass Fostering we know that everyone comes from different backgrounds, has different life experiences, and have various reasons for wanting to become foster carers. That’s why when we talk to prospective carers, we see the amazing qualities that they could bring to a child’s life.
It can be daunting trying to find out more about becoming a foster carer, there’s lots of information out there, along with hearsay and myths that can be confused for facts.
Like any process that requires thorough checks and references, there are certain requirements that you need to meet to be a foster carer. But as long as you meet these basic criteria any fostering agency would be happy to talk to you to discuss your situation.
Flying Solo: Sarah’s Story
Sarah is a single foster carer with Compass Fostering, Sarah has always wanted to become a foster carer, this became a reality for Sarah in March 2021.
Sarah has not had her own birth children, but with Compass seeing the potential in her to be a fantastic foster parent, we encouraged her to continue her journey. Sarah welcomed a sibling group in April 2021, who are now settled into their new home.
“Becoming a foster carer is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Yes, it can be quite challenging at times, especially as a solo carer. But the help and support I receive from Compass is endless. No regrets, best decision ever and I wouldn’t change it for the world”.
At Compass we are never too quick to judge.
I know that there are many people who have the ability, drive, and commitment to work around these kinds of barriers, with the wrap around services Compass has to offer, we can progress new carers to take that leap of faith to start their fostering journey.
Challenging the Stigma: Garry’s Story
Garry had always wanted to be a foster carer, but with his criminal record, thought that he would be unable to.
Nevertheless, Garry decided to approach Compass’ recruitment team. After a thorough exploration of his background and record, the team found no reason why Garry wouldn’t make a wonderful foster carer. Compass understands that our applicants come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences and look for the potential in all applicants.
We will never compromise the safety of our children and young people. That’s why we let the Government guidelines and National Minimum Standards determine who can and cannot foster, rather than basing our assessments on bias or judgement.
In some cases, depending on the type of background information, we sadly cannot allow individuals to be recommended as a foster carer. You can read here about being a foster carer with a criminal record.
Garry’s case is a testament to our open-minded approach. Since being approved as a foster carer, Garry has welcomed two foster children into his home, both of whom have settled in very well.
Thank you, Garry, for taking the plunge and making a lasting difference to children’s lives.
“My journey to becoming a foster carer started late in life. I’d thought about it for years then I took early retirement. When I made the move, I’m so glad I did. I now care for a lovely little 7-year-old boy, and we get on like we’ve always been together!”
We want to be the fostering agency that sees everyone’s potential. Compass offer a ‘screening in’ assessment process rather than ‘screening out’. As long as you meet our main criteria to be a foster parent, we’ll be more than happy to discuss your options.
Your friendly local Compass team are only a phone call, email or message away. Please get in touch with us today if you would like to find out more information about becoming a foster carer.
Welcoming a foster child into your home can impact the lives of not only your foster child, but family life too – especially if you are fostering with a birth child still living in the family home.
Many foster carers already have birth children living in the family home when they decide to foster a child. While fostering with a birth child can sometimes be challenging at first, the the strong bond that is built between birth children and their new foster siblings can have a wealth of positive impacts for both sides.
Sharing their time, attention and belongings with a foster can teach birth children valuable life lessons, helping them to develop into a more selfless person as they get older. Foster and birth children can also be positive role models for one another. Their individual life experiences can help teach one another about social, religious, and cultural backgrounds different to their own.
E is the 14-year-old birth child of two of our foster carers in the South. Her family have been fostering and providing respite care for some time now. In this beautiful speech written for her school, E described the ways in which fostering has had an influence on her life.
You can read her speech below.
My parents became foster carers three years ago. After one year of rigorous checks, applications, and training, we became an official fostering family.
When I first told people that my parents were planning to foster, they thought that meant adoption. They had the idea that I was suddenly going to have a load of new siblings living in my house.
Being a child of carers, I have experienced many things that others my age couldn’t say they have. I don’t know any other children of foster carers. I believe this is because not many families foster which I think is very understandable considering the nature of the job and the level of challenge it can bring to the family dynamic.
Despite these factors, fostering can bring you pride and a sense of gratification. You can form amazing connections you never would have otherwise, which I have personally loved. I have been getting to know more people and hearing their stories.
I believe more people should consider fostering. Over 65,000 children live with almost 55,000 foster families. This is nearly 80% of the 83,000 children in care. Because of this, thousands of new foster families are needed each year. Of course, fostering is not for everyone, however I feel like it should be spoken about more.
Prior to the pandemic, in England there was a need for around 7,000 more foster families. Covid has affected fostering in a huge way. There has been a 44% rise in children needing to enter foster care. Inquiries about being a foster carer have dropped by 47%. This has created a state of emergency that needs to be fixed.
So why have I told you this? I’ve told you this because I feel that fostering should be more widely known about and spoken about. I hope that I have helped to help you start to understand what it’s like to be part of a fostering family.
We’d like to say a huge thank you to E for sharing her speech with us! It’s so important for others to know about how fostering can have a positive impact on your family dynamic.
If you think you could make a difference to the life of a young person, and are interested in becoming a foster carer, you can get in touch with us here.
You can also find more about the different types of fostering we offer here.