Do you have a kind heart and a spare room?

Its Foster Care Fortnight (10 – 23 May), a celebration of the valuable work foster carers do, and Hounslow Council are seeking help for some of the most vulnerable children in the borough.

There are around 65,000 children in the UK living with foster families and counting, with current demand being so high that it is estimated that a child goes into care and is in need of a home every 20 minutes.*

Being a foster carer can be a rewarding but often challenging job, so for anyone who may be considering it, but has reservations about taking the next step, The Chiswick Calendar has asked an experienced local foster parent some of the questions which you might want to ask to find out just what it entails.

Maxine has been fostering for Hounslow Council for six years and has had three placements, one of whom is now living in Chiswick.

Maxine’s previous job was as a head of year in a secondary school in Hounslow at which time she had a lot of contact with social workers and foster carers in the borough. Although she had wanted to foster from the age of 18, it was only at the age of 53, when the opportunity to take redundancy came, that she began fostering.

“I have been working with children for nearly 30 years so have an insight into some of the difficulties that young people have when they come from a family that might be neglecting them or not meeting their needs.”

All prospective foster carers go through six months of training, which Maxine found helpful both from a personal point of view and because during this time she got to know the social worker who would be supporting her throughout the fostering process.

“The training that Hounslow has given me has been outstanding,” enthused Maxine.

“During your assessment you have to reflect back on parts of your life which you may have forgotten, so it is therapeutic, but very necessary to think about things that have affected you and have happened in your life that have made you the person you are today.”

There are many different types of fostering from short to long term and for children of all ages from 0 – 18 years. Maxine’s first placement was a boy aged 12, followed by a 14-year-old girl who lived with her until she was 18, and she currently cares for a teenager. Maxine stresses the importance of finding the right fit for your family.

“You do have a certain amount of choice in the ages of the children you would like to foster because, obviously, they want to place someone with you who will feel comfortable in your family. I decided to focus on teenagers because I had been working with them for so long and I could see there was a gap there for good foster carers for young teenagers that may be quite difficult.”

Maxine did have reservations at first, mainly to do with her family.

“It’s very important that your family are involved. I have a teenage son who lives at home and I am a single parent, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing a very good job fostering. My son has been amazing. Anyone who lives in your home is obviously going to be affected by fostering, but the support we have been given has been very good and I haven’t needed any as far as my son is concerned.”

Maxine said she had learned a lot, one of the hardest disciplines being not taking negative situations too personally and recognising that a young person’s anger is more likely to be about something to do with their own background.

There had been challenging times, so challenging that she had even questioned whether she was the right person for the role, but her support network had been there to reassure her.

“The support from my own social worker has been fantastic. And the child in your care has their own social worker. I can’t fault the support I’ve received from Hounslow (Council) and the foster carers network in Hounslow keep in touch socially and support one another, which is really important.”

Hounslow Council provide a 24-hour support helpline, a dedicated supervising social worker, a psychotherapist for the child during the initial placement plus financial benefits, including an allowance of between £600 and £870 per fortnight, depending on the child’s needs and complexities.

It’s difficult, but fulfilling

“Obviously you don’t go into foster caring thinking it’s all going to be happy and perfect. It’s difficult, but fulfilling. The benefits far outweigh the low points. My sister has just started fostering as she saw what I was doing.”

“Even though you might not be with them for very long, you can mould them in some way and give them some insight into what life might be like for them. Give them ambition and aspirations. It’s really important that you look upon it as a necessary thing and that that young person will remember you for the rest of their lives and hopefully, be grateful for what you have done for them.”

that young person will remember you for the rest of their lives and hopefully, be grateful for what you have done for them.

A prime example of the positive change foster carers can bring about is the young person living with Maxine now.  The teenager had stopped going to school because of their previous home situation, but is now attending every day and flourishing.

“I would recommend fostering. Make a call; be proactive. Talk to other foster parents as well as speak to a social worker and just ask questions. I know in Hounslow there are so many children who could benefit from foster carers.”

I know in Hounslow there are so many children who could benefit from foster carers.

“All you need is a kind heart, a spare bedroom and want to do something good.”

Visit: hounslow.gov.uk/fostering for more information on becoming a foster carer and the no strings attached foster carers information sessions.

*Figures from The Fostering Network

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick School shortlisted for Secondary School of the Year 2021

See also: Council ends Streetspace trial at Turnham Green Terrace

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