Angela Hart writes stories based on her experiences with the children she fosters and today she joins me to talk about what she’s learnt so far.
What it REALLY takes to be a foster carer
By Angela Hart, specialist foster carer and Sunday Times bestselling author.
I’ve fostered more than fifty kids over the past 30 years. At first I thought looking after kids would be like taking care of the flowers in our florists: if I provided the right environment, nourished them well and treated them with love and respect, everything would be rosy. I laugh at my naivety now, because I didn’t have a clue what I was letting myself in for.
I have absolutely no regrets; it is the most challenging and rewarding career I could have wished for, though having some of the myths exploded by an experienced foster carer before I began would have been very useful. Here’s what I’ve learned.
MYTHS V REALITY
Myth 1: All you need is a big heart.
Reality: The vast majority of kids in care have suffered some kind of trauma, which could affect their behaviour. You need to undergo training in everything from substance abuse to psychological disorders. As well as being a stand-in parent, you have to perform the roles of therapist, teacher and mentor. You must be strong and prepared to set boundaries and stick to them. Respecting authority is also crucial, as Social Services is a hotbed of strict rules and regulations.
Myth 2: Anyone with a clean police check and a spare room can foster.
Reality: You have to go through the very thorough Form F assessment process. No stone is left unturned. For example, you are interviewed at length about your own childhood and all your relationships. Your home and any pets have to pass a string of safety checks, and once you start fostering your house will be used for meetings with social workers, who will tell you the date and time!
Myth 3: Everyone thinks you deserve a medal.
Reality: Make that everyone except the kids who live with you, as well as the strangers who view you as a terrible parent when the kids misbehave in public. There will also be a well-meaning stream of people who tell you they could not do your job, then proceed to give you parenting advice! Though some may find this irritating I welcome any advice, as sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees. The kids eventually thank you, though it always takes years for them to appreciate what you did for them.
TOP TIPS FOR PROSPECTIVE FOSTER CARERS
Tip 1: Use the Internet to find out if your Local Authority or an Independent Fostering Provider is looking for foster carers in your area. Most are, as there is a shortage.
Tip 2: Do your research. Read The A-Z of Therapeutic Parenting by Sarah Naish. I think it’s essential reading for anyone caring for a child with behaviour issues. Visit thefosteringnetwork.org.uk. The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity and is the essential network for fostering, bringing together everyone who is involved in the lives of fostered children. They champion fostering and seek to create vital change so that foster care is the very best it can be. For other charities supporting foster carers visit tactcare.org.uk, actionforchildren.org.uk and barnardos.org.uk.
Tip 3: Don’t go into fostering for the money. In return for a low income you will be on duty 24/7 with no sick pay, pension or guaranteed holiday. For me, the reward is the huge privilege of being able to say I have changed the lives of so many, for the better. Plus seeing the joy on a child’s face the first time they go to the beach, for instance, is priceless.
What a great post and such a vital and rewarding job. Thank you for sharing this, I’m certain anyone looking to foster a child will find this a massive help.
Hart uses her experiences in her books, the fifth of which, The Girl Who Wanted to Belong, is out now.
Here’s the blurb …
Bluebird; Main Market edition (23 Aug. 2018)
Lucy is eight years old and ends up in foster care after being abandoned by her mum and kicked out by her new stepmother. Two aunties and then her elderly grandmother take her in but it seems nobody can cope with Lucy’s disruptive behaviour. Social Services hope a stay with experienced foster carer Angela will help Lucy settle down. She misses her dad and three siblings and is desperate for a fresh start back home, but will Lucy ever be able to live in harmony with her stepmother and her stepsister – a girl who was once her best friend at school?
The Girl Who Wanted to Belong is the fifth book from well-loved foster carer and Sunday Times bestselling author Angela Hart. A true story that shares the tale of one of the many children she has fostered over the years. Angela’s stories show the difference that quiet care, a watchful eye and sympathetic ear can make to those children whose upbringing has been less fortunate than others.
You can get your copy now:
Huge thanks to the author for joining me today and for my place on the tour. Make sure you keep up with the rest of the bloggers:
About the author …
Angela Hart, who writes under a pseudonym, is a specialist foster carer for children with complex needs. Angela has been a foster carer for over 25 years, during which time she and her husband, Jonathan, have looked after more than fifty children. Her books Terrified and The Girl Who Just Wanted To Be Loved were top ten Sunday Times bestsellers.