Rose and Mike, foster parents based in Milton Keynes, have provided 101 periods of vital care.
Rose and Mike, aged 72 and 74 respectively, started their fostering journey in 1981 when Rose was at home with her twin sons. She saw an ad calling out for foster carers in the Watford area where they were desperately needed for a new teen scheme.
Rose went to a couple of meetings with other carers and, after hearing their experiences and their stories, she realised it was the ideal route for them. They then provided short-term care for countless vulnerable teenagers in need before moving up to Northampton in 1986 and providing support for a similar scheme there.
As their twin sons flourished into teenagers, the couple decided to stop fostering in 1995 and spend more time as a family. However, as their own children grew up Rose began to reflect on her working commitments they considered fostering again.
So, in 2009, they joined Fosterplus and have since provided 101 periods of vital short-term and respite care to young people in need.
“It can be a challenge,” says Rose. “But it’s important to think about how a young person is feeling and what they’re thinking. They’ve grown up in environments that aren’t always safe or providing the level of care they need, so they’re bound to have their guard up.”
“Our first-ever placement had an older boyfriend and she would go out drinking with him. You can’t lock them up, and when they keep misbehaving, it’s hard to cope as you feel like you’re of no use.” Yet the couple educated and supported the young person to stay safe.
On dealing with those feelings, Rose advises: “It’s important to understand that as a foster parent, you can offer to help them as much as you can, but they need to want to work with you to develop. Stand back from your own feelings and consider the child’s best interests – it can be hard to do at the time, but it can really help you to understand what the best thing to do is.”
“It soon starts to get easier. You quickly learn more about different behaviours which helps with finding the best way to respond and react to any misbehaviours. As long as you try your hardest, no one can ask for anything more.”
However, despite the challenges that come with fostering, the couple feel they mean very little when they look at how much value this career choice has given them overall.
“For us, we just love hearing about how children we’ve cared for have gone on to do better things. The biggest reward is seeing children getting on, seeing them achieve great things. When some of the young people come to us, they’re in such a state of distress, so to hear they’re now running their own business or have gotten a degree, is fantastic and makes it all worth it.”
“That’s what fostering is all about: seeing young people make improvements.”
Some of the most significant moments for Rose and Mike have been giving children the childhood experiences they’d never had before. “For one boy’s 15th birthday, we got him a cake with his name on and some candles. He started getting upset because it was the first cake he’d ever been given.”
“We had another similar moment when we took one young boy on a weekend away in our motorhome. We were just walking back to the motorhome, and he suddenly burst into tears. Eventually, we found out why he was so upset, it was because he’d had the best weekend of his life, but it should have been with his parents.”
Over the years, the couple has also seen plenty of changes within foster care. “When we first started, we didn’t receive the level of training or support on offer now.”
“In 2009, when we first started fostering again, we went on all the courses offered by Fosterplus, and we think they would have offered us so much more guidance in the early years.”
“For many new foster parents, the level of training and assessments they have to go through can be very daunting simply because there is so much of it. It’s important to recognise that it’s all there to ensure you can look after these vulnerable children to the absolute best of your ability.”
To those who are considering foster care, Rose has this piece of advice: “take time and think about it. I can’t imagine not doing it. Yes, not every placement will be perfect, and it’s not always easy going, but we both recommend it as it so rewarding.”
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