Sonia has been a foster carer for 11 years. She and her husband Graham joined the North Lincolnshire fostering community when they relocated to the area. They have helped to care for 38 children in total. Wanting to help as many children as possible, they felt that short term fostering was the best fit for them.
“We have had children with us for a varying length of time, from two nights to 16 months. We now provide regular short breaks to the same children. This allows us to not only provide support to other foster carers, but we also get to know the children well too and become trusted people in their lives. We feel we are like the children’s extended family, similar to being an aunt and uncle who they go to stay within the school holidays.
Fostering has been so rewarding for us. Seeing them learn new skills and develop; simple things such as being able to use a knife and fork. Seeing them flourish in many different ways including having the confidence to join clubs or take part in events at school. We cared for one girl who we introduced to horse riding. She loved it and even went onto volunteering at the riding the school and helping other children. Seeing someone learn new skills and knowing we have been a part of that is so rewarding. It made a difference to her confidence and attainment at school too as her self-belief just kept on growing. She knew we were in her corner and would support and love her no matter what. We supported another young person to believe in herself too, so much so that she went on to apply to be part of the school council. She gave a speech in assembly, and this was an amazing achievement for her.
Our first foster child is celebrating her 25th birthday soon and we are going to visit her to celebrate. We look back and know we played a part in helping her to achieve the life she has now. We were just one piece of the puzzle and there was a whole team who helped her to achieve a happy life but being part of that is something to be proud of. Our children know they can always come to us for support if they need it. We are their extended family, no matter where they live or what they are doing, we want them to know we still care.
If anyone is considering become a foster carer, I would tell them to do it. You need to welcome children with open arms and make no prejudgements as no child is the same. There are highs and lows when fostering, but the rewards outweigh the challenges. When applying to be a foster carer everyone is assessed on an individual basis, but I would say there are some key qualities people should possess. This includes being caring, empathetic and being prepared to share love and open your home. The support we have received from North Lincolnshire Council has been second to none and our fostering social worker is always on hand, through the ups and downs. You really do become part of a community when you foster.
It was a physical and mental challenge for me to do this skydive, but it’s like fostering in that respect too. Sometimes you don’t know what to expect but when you do it, it could turn out to be the best thing you’ve done. With the skydive, each jumper is matched to the right instructor for the tandem jump and this is like fostering, as the children are matched with foster families on an individual basis based on experience or skills. Like skydiving, fostering can be scary, emotional and unknown, but you can stand back and think WOW, look at what we have achieved!”