Lola is currently going through an assessment to become foster carer. Having been through the process before, we spoke to her about her experiences and what it means to become a foster carer again.
What is your day job?
I currently work as a senior social work assistant in a ‘Child in Care’ team in the West Midlands. As part of my position, I support a group of social workers by arranging contact for looked-after children and their families.
How long have you been fostering?
I first became a foster carer 20 years ago for a private company and went on to foster 14 children from ages 1 to 16. I loved having young people in my home and supporting them in the best way I could. I always try to offer support that helps young people to eventually live independently and become responsible adults.
From budgeting, cooking and cleaning, to CV writing, it gave me a lot of personal satisfaction seeing young people gain life skills.
You took a break from fostering. Why?
Fostering had been my only focus and when my last young person left in 2013, it was time for a change.
I wanted to achieve other things, but the active nature of being a foster carer had not given me that. However, this was always going to be a break and not an end to fostering. I enjoyed bringing positive change to the lives of children and young people too much to stop.
What made you want to foster again?
During my break, I moved home, travelled and spent time with family and friends. Reflecting on this period and having had enough rest, I am in a place now where I can once again commit myself to giving a child unconditional support.
Why did you choose Progress?
Once I decided to return to fostering, I wanted to join an agency where I knew what they stood for and had values much like my own.
In 2005, I had worked for Progress as a social work assistant. I liked their focus on improving a child’s self-esteem, helping them gain valuable life skills and ensuring that each child achieves their full potential.
The staff and carers were friendly and approachable and they were as passionate about wanting to enhance a child’s life as myself. So, when it came to approaching an agency, they were my first choice.
At Progress, there is a sense of commitment to the carers and children and a unity that is hard to come by. I have the emotional security and support needed to do my job well.
How has the process changed from the last time you applied?
The difference between when I first became a carer to now is time. For example, 20 years ago, the whole process took about 9 months.
Having a good relationship with an agency is important. In my previous experiences as a foster carer, there was no relationship building or set routine for the assessor to visit me. It felt like I was fitting into their schedule. I would have no idea how I was progressing in the evaluation and was never invited to panel or my yearly appraisal.
Today, the process is much shorter. There is better continuity of visits and the assessor and I have sat together regularly to complete assessments.
How have Progress helped you during the process?
So far, I have found working with Progress to be swift, stress-free and engaging. Although I have my assessor, I also know I can talk to any team member as and when I require it.
I think it’s vital that foster carers and the agency have effective communication because this ensures that children will benefit the most. Because Progress has already made me feel like part of the team and have always kept me updated to my status, I’m confident that working with them will improve my skills as a foster carer.
How do you feel about the future?
I am really looking forward to returning to fostering. It is a rewarding career and seeing young people laying the foundations for their futures gives me a lot of joy.
Do you feel you too could become a foster carer?