I didn't pick fostering - it chose me!
Could you provide a home for a child in need? In the month that includes Foster Care Fortnight , one person who's done just that tells his story
MY name is Lloyd, and I'm a single parent of Caribbean descent. I live in Fishponds, and have four children who are all now young adults. Two of them are now parents themselves, and I could not be more proud. I am also a foster carer.
My journey as a registered foster carer began nearly four years ago, and people often ask me, “what made you decide to become a foster carer?"
Four years before becoming a registered foster carer I was approached by a family I barely knew; they asked If I would look after a young lad who was fourteen at the time. I knew this child because he was friends with my children, and sadly his father was also a single parent who was no longer able to look after him. Through my experience of supporting him through such a difficult time of his life I was able to witness firsthand the struggle of a child who had been let down badly, and the difference an adult prepared to help could make. Realising how I had helped him to turn his life around, he told me, "you should become a foster carer." The rest is history. It wasn’t me who picked fostering, it was fostering that picked me.
“What is it like to foster?” This is the other question I get asked the most, especially by those who are considering fostering themselves. I'd be lying if I didn’t admit that it can be challenging. It’s a big ask taking a child into your home, a child who may well come with difficulties due to their past. I've fostered around thirty-five children, all boys who were six to seventeen years old, and all of them very different with different needs. The one thing that I can say was common among them was the need to be accepted, to be valued, to be understood and shown love.
A foster carer needs to be committed, dynamic, and resourceful. The preparation training and the ongoing training helped me to gain the skills and understanding that I have needed and will need again. I take up as many training opportunities as I can. Another good source of support is the foster carers support groups. These can consist of social workers and carers, or just carers. They are normally held in a informal setting where you can gain extra training, but most importantly, they are opportunities to meet other carers, share stories and experiences and have a laugh.
A sense of humour is a very important quality to have as a foster carer. I know many carers from Bristol and beyond, some of which are now good friends. We often meet up with our fostered children to do activities and have days out, sometimes just meeting up to hang out at the local park while our kids play. The fostering community is probably one of the most important elements of my fostering, and in it I have found much friendship and support.
Looking back at my childhood I remember a very happy, secure and nurturing upbringing here in Bristol. Sadly, that is not the same for all children. I've now witnessed the plight of children whose life experience has been far from ideal, and I'm glad to be part of the process that is trying to turn that around for them. I have a love for Bristol, its streets, its shops, parks and its people. It is where I grew up happily, and I'm proud to be giving back to Bristol, the place where I was born.
As part of Foster Care Fortnight 2018, a member of the fostering team and a foster carer will be at Fishponds Library from 10.30am – 1.00pm on Tuesday May 15, to answer your queries. For details of venues across the city holding drop-ins, visit bristol.gov.uk/fostercarefortnight