Could you be a foster parent? Graham’s story
To celebrate Foster Care Fortnight (15-28 May 2023) and encourage more local people to join our foster care community, we’re highlighting the experiences of our very own foster carers.
Fostering changes lives. It did for council handyperson Graham Webster. He tells us how…:-
On 4 April 2011, myself, my wife, our daughter and son attended our first fostering panel of 15 people. We were looking to be approved with an independent fostering agency. We took our children along as we were also about to go on holiday the following day and thought they would just be sat in the waiting room as Mum and Dad got grilled but we made the agency history books that day as they asked for the children to come in and be interviewed by the panel on their views of our family becoming a foster family. It was a unanimous yes that day and we haven’t looked back.
We decided to embark on our fostering journey after several years of helping children from Belarus. Hosting them over the summer holidays, we met other foster carers along the way and the more we learnt we decided to foster. Over the eight years we fostered for the agency, we fostered 17 children in total, mostly Shropshire children, some short term, some long term and some transitioning from residential homes. We also ended up adopting our son from one of our first placements… that wasn’t meant to happen! We then made the decision to move from the agency to foster with Shropshire Council, this was an easy decision to make, because as soon as we spoke to the fostering team at Shropshire, we realised that they were all very welcoming and accommodating towards us.
The support, training and development was excellent and on our doorstep, so the move was made very easy. We met local carers who have since become friends and have settled well with the help of some lovely social workers and other professionals.
Life hasn’t been quiet since moving to Shropshire Council: we have fostered another 13 children in the last four years, again long term, short term and emergency. Many highs and lows, the highs include watching children settle, flourish and develop personalities. The excitement when they go on holiday, seeing things for the first time and reaching milestones in their education or development. Supporting them with their emotional needs and helping them through very difficult parts of their own fostering journey, helping them understand and accept their situations. The joy of watching and supporting children in education and finally climbing their barriers to learning or advocating for your children to gain the education they require, and deserve, to help them get the support they need to start to learn. Sometimes watching children be reunited back to their families or leaving care and reaching independent living and even supporting them after they have left with problems and situations that may arise.
The lows are inevitable, and come in varying forms, learning to accept seeing children coming to you in distressed states, in times of upsetting natures and getting used to some children having to move on due to all sorts of reasons.
Our main concerns throughout the initial process of fostering were will our own children settle into it, will they share us as parents, share their homes, pets and extended family, all the obvious thoughts, but our children were involved from the beginning. They welcomed our first children in to our home and got stuck in with us, they have grown up in a fostering household and have developed skills along the way. They have become our support network and fostering has become their way of life too, and when children leave, they remain friends or still see them as siblings and help and support them as we do.
The one thing that has become important to us as foster carers over the years since joining Shropshire is the importance of Shropshire having enough carers in the area, to not only open their homes to the children coming into the care system, but to make sure that they all stay local, together with siblings wherever possible, and also to make sure there is enough support for things like respite for the existing carers when they need a break.
Working for Shropshire Council and with my wife being the main carer, gives us as a family a great work life balance. Working locally, I can help with school and club runs when needed and I have the evenings and weekends free to spend time with them as a family and join in with activities and offer each other support.
There are a lot of meetings and appointments which come with fostering, but again Shropshire Council are very accommodating and will arrange things around family commitments or other appointments.
We’ve fostered 30 children, including one adoption, seen several children into adulthood and several reunited with birth families. Fostering is a way of life which unites all your family, and gains extended family along the way.”
You can listen to Graham’s heartwarming story on BBC Radio Shropshire.
Where can I find out about fostering?
The great thing about fostering is that we accept people from all walks of life. They don’t need to have children of their own and can be married, single or in a same sex relationship. They do need to fit certain criteria, such as having a spare room and being over 21 years old but this can all be discussed when someone makes their first enquiry.
It can take a while to reach a decision about becoming a foster parent, so we recommend people have a look at our virtual information event – which they can view anytime online.
This means there’s no pressure and it is packed with information about fostering, who is eligible and the support available. Get in touch for a no obligation chat by calling 0800 783 8798.