Profile of a long term carer
In January 1984 Sue Stow first became a foster carer for North Lincolnshire Council. Already a mother to four boys, Sue decided to foster.
Sue found that she always seemed to have a house full of her children’s friends and said to her husband, “children seem really happy here so we must have something to offer”. As she enjoyed the feel of a busy home she thought she would try to foster and open her family to a child who needed one. Sue recalled feeling nervous throughout the assessment process, worried whether or not her family were good enough. She found the nerves increase as she attended the Skills to Foster training as this made her more determined that fostering was something she wanted to do. Sue recalls, “when we got the approval as foster carers and then were matched to a young person the family was thrilled”.
Since first becoming a foster carer Sue has cared for 38 children. “Looking back at those 38 children I feel proud of what I’ve offered to them all. I’ve maintained relationships with many of them even now they’re adults and I’m sure some will turn up this Christmas”.
Sue commits to children long term and currently fosters three children between the ages of 8 and 18 alongside her partner Billy. One previously fostered child still lives with her as an adult, 27 years later!
“When a child first comes I still feel nervous, but I remind myself that if I feel nervous the child must be much more nervous! I still worry whether I will be good enough or whether they will be happy but I know I will always do my best. My kids are the best help when a child first arrives. We are a family and they will often help break the ice by showing the children around and helping them feel at home.”
“I love having a house full, I don’t know what else I would do if I wasn’t a foster carer. I love taking the children places, giving them new experiences and being a family. I love the thought that I have made the difference to make a child happy. They only get one childhood and it’s up to us to make it the best that they can have; a happy one. We enjoy reminiscing with our children about happy occasions and the things they’ve achieved. The children can often present me with challenges but there are always just as many happy memories. I manage the challenges by remembering every day is a new day, and every day as a family we start afresh. We talk openly with children to help them understand each other, understand why other children can be challenging sometimes and then we work together to make the family a happy one.”
“My birth children definitely benefited from being in a fostering household because from this they have learnt a sense of caring for others and that to be a family you do not have to be born in to it. There will have been times that they found it hard to share my time but I know they’re proud of what I do and how they have helped.”
“To anyone who wants to foster I would say look at your family, look at the strengths of your family and you. Think about what you can offer to a child. My boys have learnt to appreciate that they have always had someone to love them and care for them and the children who we foster haven’t always had that.”
This year Sue was the winner of the North Lincolnshire Community Champion Award for Outstanding Achievement recognising her contribution through fostering. “I’m not normally one for singing my own praises but I felt so proud of this and I want to tell everyone”, Sue said. Sue’s children and mother attended the awards ceremony and felt proud Sue was being recognised for all she has done as a North Lincolnshire foster carer.
Over the thirty one years of fostering Sue has learnt a lot about caring for children and working with their families but still finds there’s always something new to learn. “When you become a foster carer you should do all the training that you can do. It keeps your feet on the floor, reminds you of the rules, it helps you learn more and get good ideas. I’ve done several training courses numerous times as you take away something different each time. The support from the teams are there when you need it, there isn’t always an answer but people will try and be helpful in any way they can and other foster carers are a great source of advice.”
North Lincolnshire Fostering team are recruiting foster carers just like Sue. Could you or someone you know be part of a committed, motivated and well supported team? Are you looking for a change in career? Do you have the skills and experience to care for older children and children with more complex needs?