WITH families across the country set to celebrate Father’s Day tomorrow, there might be some father figures getting a few more cards than expected – the foster dad.
Dave, from Portsmouth, has fostered for 17 years and still maintains a relationship with many of the youngsters he’s helped.
He said: “We are still in touch with a number of young people we have fostered, who have gone on to do a range of things from ‘normal’ jobs to going to university or joining the army. Some of them still remain close friends with my own children.
“I think so many blokes out there would make great foster dads, but they just don’t realise how they could change a young person’s life for the better, that these kids are great fun who have just had a rough start, or that they can make a living from fostering.
“Of course, on days like today, you can get a few more Father’s Day cards than you’re expecting as well!”
Dave is the full-time foster carer to three children aged 10, 13 and 15, but originally his wife Nadine has been the main fosterer in their house. After more than a decade of staying at home while Dave worked, Nadine decided to return to employment and Dave felt the time was right for fostering to become his full-time career.
Dave said: “Years back, I was working as a panel beater and Nadine worked in a bank, we both had our own children from previous marriages and also had children together, and as a couple we were looking to work more flexibly.
‘We saw an advert for fostering and rang the city council, seeing it as an ideal opportunity to combine making a real difference to vulnerable children who needed our support with working from home.
‘We both went through the recruitment process and did all the training. The panel were happy for Nadine to be the main stay-at-home foster carer, and for me to continue with my career and be the supporting foster carer.
“While Nadine had been the main foster carer for so long with me working full-time, I’d always enjoyed the supporting foster carer role. Additionally by then I’d worked full-time with young people myself for 10 years, and it seemed like the ideal time for us to switch roles. Nadine wanted to go back out to work, and the chance to work with young people from home really appealed to me, so I thought ‘why not?’”
Having begun fostering in his late 40s, Dave is now 62 and feels he’ll continue until he reaches retirement. The experiences he’s had have been so rewarding Dave feels he’d still foster even if his personal circumstances were different.
Dave said: “If I was a single man, I’d definitely still foster, given my experience and the enjoyment I’ve had out of it. My time has such a sense of importance now as a foster dad, and the allowances and fees give me the added bonus of making a decent living as well.
“Of course it can be tough at times, we are level 3 carers, so we look after the children and young people with the highest level of need. We have fostered children and young people with genuine difficulties, for example having to explain to them that they may be unable to see their parents for the foreseeable future, or perhaps that their parents are in jail.
“You need a lot of patience, a lot of understanding in terms of how difficult their lives up to this point have been, and why they can at times behave in particular ways, like playing truant at school or not coming home at agreed times.
“It’s not long before you realise however, regardless of the needs that they have, that they are just kids who have had a tough start in life, they have a wonderful ability to develop and get back on track, as long as they are given the positive environment that all children and young people need.”
And fostering as a single person is something that would be open to Dave or any other suitable candidate. Portsmouth City Council is working to recruit foster carers of all backgrounds as the city has a shortage of foster carers, particularly for teenagers.
Cllr Ryan Brent, Cabinet Member for Children and Families at Portsmouth City Council, said: “One of the council’s priorities is to recruit more foster carers, and you can foster regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, whether single or part of a couple, or whether you rent or own your own home. We are particularly keen to speak to anyone with any childcare experience, or experience of working with young people or people with disabilities, whether personal, professional or voluntary.”
There are lots of fostering options open to people, such as fostering full time as a career, part-time, providing respite foster care and Lodgings Plus, where foster carers essentially provide a young person with accommodation and support with things like cooking, college or job applications, and basic things like being organised.
Dave added: “In nearly two decades now we’ve done every type of fostering available, from respite care, fostering children as young as three or four, to Lodgings Plus and fostering teenagers.
“As a foster dad, my preference is actually fostering the teenagers, as I find I can empathise with them and really relate to them. I’ve found the older ones, whether boys or girls, have a really good sense of humour and I feel my professional skill set can really help them develop as people. At times the boys can be more untidy and be harder to motivate, and sometimes the girls can be a bit more sulky, but all are rewarding to foster.”
“Obviously we have fostered as a couple, regardless of which one of us has been the main carer over the last 17 years or so. It is almost impossible to explain the sense of achievement we’ve both had from seeing a young person, initially struggling due to their tough start in life, get back on track with a positive day at school or work, then they’ll have a good week, a good month and a good year.
.”You can see them thrive in the stable home environment that they have been so much in need of; taking an interest in them and simply providing care, structure, routine, boundaries and guidance literally works wonders for them over time”
If you are interested in becoming a foster carer...
■ Anyone interested in becoming a foster carer can attend a drop-in event at Portsmouth City Council, Civic Offices reception area in Guildhall Square on Tuesday 4 July, 6.45pm-8pm. There is no need to book, entry is completely free and people can simply drop by on the evening to find out all about fostering through an informal chat with the council’s fostering team and a foster carer.
■ For general information on fostering call 023 9283 4071 for an informal chat, visit www.foster.portsmouth.gov.uk, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
n Anyone interested in becoming a foster carer can attend a drop-in event at Portsmouth City Council, Civic Offices reception area in Guildhall Square on Tuesday 4 July, 6.45pm-8pm.
There is no need to book, entry is completely free and people can simply drop by on the evening to find out all about fostering through an informal chat with the council’s fostering team and a foster carer.
n For general information on fostering call 023 9283 4071 for an informal chat, visit www.foster.portsmouth.gov.uk, or email email@example.com.