Suffolk/Essex: Foster Care Fortnight – Case Studies speak of ‘hugely rewarding’ experiences
PUBLISHED: 10:51 14 May 2014 | UPDATED: 10:51 14 May 2014
As part of the annual Foster Care Fortnight campaign, we speak to two foster carers who have helped transform the lives of vulnerable older children by taking them in to their homes and providing care and support.
Dedicated Ipswich volunteer worker Ethel Davis has described being a foster carer as a “hugely rewarding” experience – and urged others to sign up.
The 50-year-old, who has helped vulnerable youngsters for most of her life, has cared for three teenaged foster children in the last year after joining Suffolk’s Fostering Service.
“I was approached about it by a social worker while volunteering at Warren Hill Prison,” she said.
“I thought I didn’t stand a chance. I probably went into the course naively but was approved and I have found fostering a hugely rewarding experience.
“There are a lot of myths about it but I think it is a way of giving back to the community. I am providing a loving, stable home for a Suffolk child and making a difference in a young person’s life.
“There are challenges. It is like bringing up any teenager, and you need to be firm and consistent and let them know that no means no. But the rewards outweigh challenges and I would encourage everyone to definitely go for it.”
She has cared for a 13-year-old and a 14-year-old, and is currently caring for a 16-year-old.
However, she added: “You need to be passionate to hang in there. I have passion for it and it keeps me going. To be a foster carer, you need to be patient, supportive, tolerant and non-judgemental.”
Nick Lowe and his partner Jan have cared for more than 60 vulnerable children in the last 20 years at their Colchester home.
Some have stayed in touch, reminiscing on trips to theme parks and holidays in France the couple took them on, but most have moved on from the “difficult episode” of their life, Mr Lowe said.
“It is a traumatic experience for them,” the 66-year-old said.
“We are not there to replace their mum and dad. They have their own parents. We are there to make it calm and comfortable for them, and the key is to emphasise with them and listen to them. A lot of people hear but not many listen.
“We also treat them as one of the family. We have three children who have since flown the nest and the foster child became one of the family.
“We take them on holidays and to petting zoos. One seven-year-old boy had never seen a beach before. We took him down and he collected shells in a carrier bag. He put them on display when we got back. He absolutely loved it.”
He said some foster children have stayed for years – the current 16-year-old they are looking after moved in aged 11 – while some stay for just a week or a few days.
“We got called at 5pm one evening to take on an emergency foster child for just one night,” he added.
“Our lives have definitely been made richer by fostering. I would wholeheartedly recommend it, but you have to commit to it. You can’t just do it on a whim or it won’t work.
“You are responsible for the life of a young person at the end of the day. You are being trusted to care for them and to support them.”