Brian and Ruth Pattimore are experienced foster carers for Compass South. Brian has given us a first hand account of the highs and lows of being a foster carer.
We first started fostering twelve years ago. We can remember the first foster children we had, a sibling placement of a brother and sister, it was the 30th June 2006. We had only been approved by panel two days earlier. We read the referral and decided to say yes to the placement, and began a new and rewarding journey. At first the children were scared and nervous about being in yet another placement. This was their fourth in the last twenty four months.
This was the first sign of the children beginning to trust us, and I will never forget that moment.
Our daughter was getting married in the next couple of weeks, so we took the children shopping for an outfit. We told them they could choose any outfit, and there was a look of surprise and confusion on both their faces. We asked if anything was wrong, and they said “no, we’ve just never been allowed to choose our own clothes before”. We told them that this would change from now on. “You are the ones wearing the clothes, so you should feel comfortable with what you wear.” What happened next surprised both of us. They both in turn gave us a big hug and said thank you. This was the first sign of the children beginning to trust us, and I will never forget that moment. The placement continued, not without its highs and lows, more lows than highs to start with. Each day you could see the trust growing, twelve weeks on and the children were now settling into their new schools and beginning to achieve better in their lessons. We rewarded the children with every good report we received from the school, and gave a proportionate consequence for every bad report. These two children are now adults, and refer to Ruth and myself as “our foster mum and dad”. They are still very close friends with one of our daughters, and call her sister. This placement lasted three and a half years.
When we first started fostering, we thought “Can we do this? Are we experienced enough to do the job of caring for a child that is not our own?” I have heard people say over and over again, “I couldn’t do your job”, my answer to this is I don’t see it as a job. I like to think of it as helping a child to develop and grow using the confidence within them.
Over the last twelve years we have had many tears. Tears not just of sad or hard times, but tears of joy when a child has achieved something that others had said they would never achieve. The joy when a child says to you I love you, you’ve made a difference; you never gave up on me. These things don’t happen often, but when they do you feel proud of what you have done for that child.
It just goes to show that if you give a child encouragement and praise, there is no limit to what they can achieve.
There was a time when one Christmas Eve, we heard a knock on the front door. When I answered, there in front of me was the very first child we had fostered. Now a fine young man towering over me, he said he just wanted to give us a Christmas card. We invited him in and had a long chat about how he is doing and where he is living. This fine young man, who people had said would achieve nothing, was now working in an apprenticeship with Sunseeker Boats, one of the most prestigious boat builders in the world. We were so proud to hear this. It just goes to show that if you give a child encouragement and praise, there is no limit to what they can achieve.
Over the years we have also fostered parent and child placements. Two of these placements were able to keep their child; a grandmother of one of these placements still keeps in touch with us.
When you start to foster you become part of a wider company and will meet many new friends at support groups and training. You might only meet up with these new friends occasionally, but you know they are always there for you as you are for them.
I have enjoyed my years of fostering so much that I have become a Carer Ambassador. I can be called upon to give advice or support to other carers, including new carers just starting out on this amazing journey.
Yes of course, fostering can be hard at times, but raising your own children is never easy. The positives of fostering by far outweigh the negatives. It is very rewarding, not in a financial way, but in a way of knowing you have helped a child to do their best. With most foster children, once they have left your care you may never hear from them again, but this does not stop you wondering how they are doing in life now.