Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Emma is a long-term Foster Carer with Caritas Care, a not-for-profit charity in Preston, Lancashire. She shares how her desire to give long-term foster care to vulnerable children, combined with strength from her Christian faith and faith in God, subsequently brought feelings of fulfilment into her life.
Emma had agreed to be the #FacesofFostering for the new Caritas Care fostering campaign; it was my job to interview her and find out the important things in her life that led her to foster care. I am proud to say; this is Emma’s story.
‘My faith in God is the foundation of who I am.‘
‘I am a practising Christian, and my everyday foundation is my relationship with Jesus. My parents are Christians, but I chose to be a Christian and everything I do stems from this.
Every decision I make is based on my belief in an all-loving, all-knowing, just God who gave his life for me, so I trust Him with all my life. I know that everything is in His plan, and His way is the best way for me gives me peace in my day-to-day living and helps me get through the more challenging days. Becoming a foster carer was a step of faith in what I believe he called me to’.
‘Life is not without troubles, but God is always with me and helps me be more like Him and be the best I can be to help the children I look after.’Emma
‘In my eyes, my Faith in God shows he is gracious.’
‘I love God; he loves me unconditionally and called on me to love others. I believe that his heart is mainly with the vulnerable, which is the heart he wants me to bring to fostering.’
‘I know that we can all choose to turn down the wrong path, and sometimes we do even though we know it may be wrong. However, God is gracious in my eyes and forgives when we turn to Him with it.
I instil this with the children, yes, we will make mistakes, but we can learn from them. I think God knows that these are incredible children, wonderfully and beautifully made. They each have unique and gorgeous personalities; sometimes, they can have shaky times, but so can we all.
These children have many barriers to get over, and they need the right help to overcome these barriers. Long-term foster carers identify these barriers on a greater level because we often have lived through our life barriers. We have been through trauma and overcome them; therefore, we can use our experiences to create good for them.
‘If you are thinking about long-term fostering, step back and reflect on what you want.’
Before I started fostering, I saw people living life at full throttle and stuck in routines. I would tell them to step back, reflect on what they want, and not be scared to love, including themselves and others.
‘Becoming a long-term foster carer has enhanced my life; it is sometimes not easy, it can be challenging, but it is extremely rewarding. The most important decision you can make is who you will foster with, and for me, this was Caritas Care.’
‘Caritas Care are fantastic.’
‘I think Caritas Care are fantastic. They go above the care you expect because they want you to have the best.’ I became a foster carer with Caritas Care because they genuinely care and want the best for you.
‘I can ring anytime and ask them anything. The team at Caritas Care runs on full-throttle because of the pandemic; I feel for them; however, I know they do this because they want the best for the kids.’
‘I have two boys with me on a long-term placement.’
‘I made a YouTube video with Caritas Care 2 years ago when I had my first placement with three short-term children. After they left, I had a short break and three little boys for seven months. I now have siblings; two boys were placed with me on a long-term foster care placement.
From that first placement, I learned that siblings were easier to settle, and they were. The children had a unique bond, which ultimately meant they were stronger. I know that sometimes children, especially siblings, may take each other for granted, but they rely on each other. After all, they have been through the same experiences together, and each gave the other the consistency they needed.’
‘There is a stereotype of foster children; some people believe they have ‘bad ‘behaviour and cause lots of havoc; this makes me sad. Although challenging behaviours may be overcome, this is not who they are.
I have found the children I look after to be kind, creative, funny, and bright with their dreams and aspirations. People may have preconceptions of what ‘looked after children are like, but to me, these children are special and have a purpose in their lives unique to them, a hope, and a future.
‘Foster children are often angry at the situation, not you personally.’
‘When a child’s armour of defence gets battered, we can forget a person under there has a unique personality. Also, sometimes, we find it hard not to take things personally. On my first placement, the eldest child was 15 when she came to stay short-term and hated being here. Subsequently, she did everything she could to let me know it too’.
‘My relationship with her now is different because she understands her relationship and life with me differed from the life she had before. The relationship’s difference was what she found hard to cope with, not me. Now she can see how much I cared for her and says she is grateful.
‘This young lady talks about happy memories in a difficult time. However, she has reflected on her life parallels now she is back with her family; consequently, she understands and feels the differences.’
‘It makes sense to her now because it was too much to process while living with me, but the important thing is that she sees her stay with me as a positive and good thing, and she does.’
‘We must remember that adults have had sufferings and needed support.’
We must remember; children have often had adults who have suffered massive sufferings themselves. These people need support, sometimes they take it, and other times they do not, but often it is hard to see someone else bringing up their children.
‘Caring for other people’s children is a daunting responsibility, but watching them grow is a huge privilege. I do not think we give children enough credit or understand the depth of their thought processes.
One of the children I cared for previously was five, and she wanted to write a song that had just come into her head. The song was about Jesus and love, and it came into her head from nowhere when we were together at mealtime. She asked me to write it down for her; it was great.
There was no way she could have copied it; however, I know she is a creative child, and the song came straight from her heart.
‘Everyday things in our lives bring us closer together.‘
‘I find it amazing how things from my everyday life bring us closer together, often linked with their life before they came to me. The children I first looked after often went to a church kids club near their Mum’s home, and I only found out this as we were walking past one day, and they both said, ‘we used to go in there.
I took them in to say hi as they were keen to go in, and the leaders said they had been praying for the children because they had not come back; they did not know what had happened to them. I told them they were with me, and everything had come full circle.
These children are now home living with their families; I am proud to care for them and support them for their families.
‘I have two boys with me now, aged 3 and 7; they are a long-term foster care placement and have been in foster care for a couple of years before coming to me. The children had established links with a church their former foster carers attended.’
They were excited about meeting people at my church who had been praying for us; it felt like we were meant to be together.
‘Caritas support has been outstanding, especially during COVID. The social workers have been coming to see us every week when I had the three boys, and it has been a big help to us all.’Emma
‘It is essential to recognise the long-term importance of family relationships and contact for children.‘
‘The difference between the short-term and long-term foster care placements was mainly the interaction with birth parents and families. In short-term placements, there is a chance to get to know parents and build a connection with them; this is important for children.
The eldest boy I have now talked about is his parents, I have not met them yet, but he often speaks of his Mum. She is a significant person to him, and I respect this. I have said I am looking forward to meeting his Mum one day, which has made him happy.’
‘It is hard when you have children with you on short-term placement, and they return home or move on; you know you must let go, even though you do form attachments to them. However, as I have told them, they will always have a special place in my heart and have helped me learn much.
‘Another good thing with Caritas was matching children and me; I did not feel forced to accept referrals nor made to feel guilty if I said no.’
‘My Social worker knows and respects me.’
My social worker often questioned my thought processes but never pushed me because they respected my opinion. It is hard to say no to a child when they are all in need. There are always more critical questions in my head.
‘Will it work for us all; will I not be able to help the child? And my social workers are incredibly good at understanding this. The reason is they take time to get to know you.
My social worker, Steph, knows me as a person, and she knows the things I am capable of, even though I am unaware of them. We trust ourselves, and our communication is always strong; this honesty makes a massive difference because it is genuine and open.
As a result, Steph understands me, and it is easier to accept her reasoning because we respect each other. She would never push me to do something that she knew I would not be capable of because, ultimately, it would affect the children.’
‘I knew long-term fostering meant making a long-term commitment to myself.‘
Having the boys with me as a long-term foster care made me realise how much I wanted to commit to them for life; they will always be my boys. I was chatting with them recently, and the eldest child asked me what would happen when they turned 18.
He said, ‘I’m going to miss you when I’m 18.’ He is still seven years of age, and he looked sad when he spoke about it. I told him not to worry; ‘you are stuck with me for life, and even if you did decide to leave after you were 18, I would still be knocking on your door to look after you’.
It is a big step to make a long-term foster care commitment because you are committing your life, but when I accepted them, I said to myself, ‘That’s it, this is the next 15 years of my life!’
‘I have committed myself to 15 Christmas with the boys.’
In long-term foster care, day-to-day routines are more straightforward. Sometimes, with short-term foster care, contact can be up to five times a week; therefore, planning activities and days out is tricky. However, children in a short-term placement must have consistent contact because they hope they will return home when the time is right.
When you are looking to offer long-term foster care and find one; or two children, in my case, to foster, some people do not understand why you do what you do. Caritas Care is easier because their other foster carers have shared experiences, and we all aim to support each other.
Also, because some of us are local to each other, we can share the school runs. We can collect and bring the children from activities and share practical and everyday things, and the children love it.
‘My life with the boys is now complete.‘
One worry was that this life completely contrasted with my old life as a single person. Before, I was often out socialising with friends, playing badminton, choir, and attending church groups; I thought I might miss out on all these things because I was now a foster carer.
However, although things are vastly different now, it is in a great way. I still have the friends I have; we have just adapted the way we do some things. I have made new friends, connected with more people, and I do life with the boys; they have brought more adventure and joy. For me, I feel I am now fulfilling God’s purpose for my life.
I like the boys to feel loved. The other day the younger boy did something that he perhaps should not have done; his older brother said to him, ‘It’s okay, Emma will still love you even if you haven’t done the right thing, don’t worry.’ And he is right; that is what I will always do for them both.
Tonight, I had to spend an hour looking for the youngest child’s teddy because he could not sleep without it. I told him not to worry, I will find it for him, and I did. Even though he was fast asleep when I got back less than 20 minutes later, teddy would be there when he wakes up. I spent time finding it because it is important to him.’
A note from Emma’s Supervising Social Worker
‘As I completed Emma’s Form F assessment and became her supervising social worker once she was approved, I have gotten to know her well. She has, I think, at times surprised herself! Watching her grow in confidence and her skills and knowledge increase has been a pleasure.
Emma is such a warm and thoughtful person who always thinks of others. One of her star qualities is her real talent for working with birth families and demonstrating genuine empathy. She keeps in touch with the children from her previous placements, who speak highly of her.
Emma cared for a teenager, which was a little out of her comfort zone and, at times, tricky, but she was thrilled that the young person kept in touch and thanked her for what Emma had done for her whilst she was in her care.
Emma uses supervision visits with me to good effect and values the support of the wider team too. She knows no question is silly and to reach out should she need any help. Emma treats every day as a foster carer as a school day and values Caritas Care’s training. Emma is a complete star and a much valued and appreciated foster carer.’
I am proud to work with Caritas Care and recruit foster carers to help them continue their Oustanding work. The Charity is, as Emma says, amazing. They dedicate their lives to helping vulnerable children, their foster carers and their community to ensure every person can reach their full potential.
I hope that Emma’s story has inspired you; she inspired me because her humility, compassion and dedication to children helped her commit to her two foster children. After all, 18 Christmas together will be the fulfilment she and her boys need and deserve.
If you want to learn more about fostering, please get in touch. Verve offers you advice and clarity on the fostering process and, hopefully, the opportunity to bring fulfilment to your and vulnerable children’s lives when they need it most.