A recruitment event to attract new foster carers is being hosted by Stirling Council at the Raploch Campus on Tuesday, March 28.
Foster carers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but are united by love and empathy and a desire to better the lives of children and young people who cannot be cared for by their families.
Lynn Findlater and her husband Will, from Cornton, became foster parents in 1995 and helped over 40 children and young people before their retirement last month (full Case Study below).
Lynn said: “One of the good things about fostering is it felt like we got the chance to make a change.
“Some of the young people who were most impacted by their earliest experiences at home are now very successful and running their own businesses. Being able to include them in our family and build up relationships worked well for us and the children.
“People usually say to me they couldn’t do it, that I must be an amazing person and have the patience of a saint. I am neither of those things, but I just really care about helping kids who have had to face some of the most difficult times in their short lives.
“Fostering is not the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but there is support and training available. If it’s right for you, you will enjoy it. Caring for the kids has been my life.”
Stirling Council provides training and professional development for all foster carers to help them carry out their fostering tasks. Fostering is often a short-term arrangement lasting a few weeks, but can sometimes be in place for a longer term. Foster carers receive a weekly payment to cover the cost of caring for a child.
Marie Valente, Head of Children and Families, said: “Stirling foster carers are a most precious resource and we need more of them.
“We have a great track record of support to keep children in their communities to be loved with their families.
“But sometimes things get so desperate that children cannot stay with their own family. When that happens they have a right to live with another family and be given the nurture that we all so desperately need.
“Children tell us that they want to be safe and to know what is going to happen next. They want relationships that are real, loving and consistent.
“They want to stay with their brothers and sisters and continue relationships that are important to them. Foster carers can provide that safety, stability and nurture that children need to thrive.”
Ace*, who lives with his foster carer in Stirling, said: “I like living with my foster carer because she’s funny and makes me laugh.
“I don’t get my Playstation all day but I’m happy here. That’s it. I’m happy. I would say to any other boys or girls going to live with a foster carer, ‘Don’t worry. It’s going to be okay.’”
Stirling Council’s recruitment event takes place on Tuesday, March 28 between 5.15pm-7.15pm at the Raploch Community Campus.
Drop in on the day, call 01786 404040 or email email@example.com for more details.
For more information on fostering in the Stirling area, check out www.stirling.gov.uk/fostering.
*Names have been anonymised to protect the child.
FOSTER CARERS’ CASE STUDY – LYNN FINDLATER
- What made you want to be a foster carer?
The very first thing that made me think about it was when Will, my husband, worked with my father in the Alloa Advertiser within the printing department. There was a leaflet they had been printing called “Time for a Teenager” and Will brought it home. It was about fostering specifically for teenagers. I thought I would like to do that, although the timing was not quite right for us. We were living in Alloa and I felt at the time that we did not have enough space. I had two children of my own as well.
When we moved to Stirling we put an extension on. We were doing B&B but I still had the urge to foster, it was something I really wanted to do and couldn’t get it out of my head. I had kept the leaflet for years and years and never forgot about it. We decided it was a good time to do it after we built the extension and I took the B&B sign down. I felt it was a good way to try it, as if we discovered it was not for us as a family, we could put the sign back out. It wasn’t like I was giving up a job so there was not a financial risk for us.
That’s how it started and our first children were placed who were a brother and sister. We were told they would be with us for 3 months but we had them for years, particularly the boy. He arrived when he was 11 and he left when he went to university. He would come back at weekends and holidays when he moved to university. He was around 24 when he moved on permanently. Today he has a caravan a few down from ours at the caravan site we go to regularly. We see him there with his wife and two kids. I never looked back, and the B&B sign never went back up!
- Tell us about the good things about fostering?
We did long term, and one of the good things about fostering is it felt like we got the chance to make a change. It’s not always possible, some kids have too many difficulties, but you can always make little changes. Some children who we have cared for came with lots of difficulties and I doubted how they would manage as they moved into adulthood, but some of the young people who were most impacted by their earliest experiences at home are now very successful and running their own businesses. Being able to include them in our family and build up relationships worked well for us and the children. These are the good times. I think you don’t see that as much with short term, but the care you give can still be supportive and help a young person.
One boy l looked after was never at home much, and I felt like he did not want to be here, but the social worker helped me understand that he was getting something out of it. We did not always realise the positive effect that we were having. He was one of the young people who went on to run his own business and has spoken positively about his time with our family. Sometimes I would feel guilty that I was not able to do or give enough but you have to also make it work for your whole family.
- Tell us about the challenges?
Sometimes the behaviours that children present due to their experiences can be very difficult to manage; however this is different for different carers. Something you might find hard, another carer may not.
I also had a very positive experience with CAMHS for one young person during Covid lockdowns. The CAMHS worker supported the young person and me, and I was able to speak to them regularly. She was a lifeline to me. I felt listened to during a very difficult time. Training and support are so important to manage this best for the young person. Also the support you get from your own social worker is very helpful at times like these.
- What has helped you over the years?
Sometimes when I was really entrenched at a difficult time and couldn’t see any way out of it, my partner would be so supportive. He would also have a different perspective and help me think in different ways. When you have been dealing with it all day, it is a relief to share it with someone. You can’t just talk to anyone as confidentiality must be upheld. You have your social worker and other carers, however. Support networks are important but to be able to discuss events you need to use the professionals and other carers.
Time to myself also helps, particularly at very stressful times. Walking my dogs out in fresh air can be very calming. Being able to get out of the house is really important. Fostering is your life and it can be 24/7 so self-care is essential.
- What kept you going for the 28 years you have been a foster carer?
Even with the challenges you can work through a lot, especially when the kids are with you long term. The longer you have them, the more you can work through. Going back to the start is hard but the satisfaction outweighs it.
- What makes a good foster carer?
Having empathy for others, being caring and interested in the young people. I genuinely love teenagers. I enjoy them, and I have always wanted to care for that age group. Thinking back to my own teenage years I remember how hard they could be but I had my parents who were there for me consistently, even in the tough times.
The young people who we look after often don’t have anyone who can offer them that support within their families. Teenagers have different needs from the care that little children need but they are just as vulnerable and in need of a loving and supportive home.
- How many children have you cared for?
We were thinking about this recently and tried to remember all the kids. We think approximately 40 children. Most were long term, but we also did short breaks and emergency placements. Even with the long term we had care of five children at one point. That number of children would not be placed today unless under very special circumstances for example keeping siblings together – I definitely needed high levels of energy. As I got older I had less energy, but I was very committed to the young people and it took me two years to make the decision to de-register.
- What would you tell people about fostering?
Fostering is not the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but there is support and training available. If it’s right for you, you will enjoy it. Caring for the kids has been my life. I did enjoy it for the majority of the time, though some placements were more challenging than others.
Mental health difficulties can have a massive impact on everyone within a household, including the other young people who I cared for. You need to take all the support from other professionals you can and go to training as this can offer you strategies and thinking in other ways.
People usually say to me they couldn’t do it, that I must be an amazing person and have the patience of a saint. I am neither of those things, but I just really care about helping kids who have had to face some of the most difficult times in their short lives.
- Can you tell us about the community response to you as a foster carer?
I do not really have much of a community around me because of the location of my house. The wider community has been so important, however. For example the schools and the looked-after nurse team. Over the years the schools have become more supportive and they have a better understanding of the needs of the children. Over the last 20 years there has been a gradual change and they have been so good with the children I have cared for. Schools would have previously just excluded young people but there is a big change now.
The school is an important support to the overall care of the young people as carers need the time during school hours. The routine was so important to the day. I loved when the kids were at school and we would all come in at night, sit down and have a meal together and share stories about our day. It was family life. Even with all the issues children bring, you can still have a sense of family life.
- Are you still in touch with any of the young people you cared for?
I have kept in touch with many of the young people over the years. This involves telephone contact and messaging. We also regularly have them for dinner and usually have contact at birthdays and Christmas. This changes over time but being available to the young people, particularly those who have been with us on a long term basis is very important. Sometimes we won’t hear from them for a while but they usually always get back in touch and know we are there for them, particularly when they are having difficult times.