Afia and her husband Kamruz have been fostering for Tower Hamlets for 15 years. During that time, they have cared for 27 children. Many of those have been sibling groups (brothers and sisters). They have 4 grown-up sons who also still live with them. Afia is currently the Chair of the Foster Carers’ Association (FCA). The FCA is an independent group made up of Tower Hamlets’ foster carers offering support and organising events for carers.
“I had always thought about fostering. I have grown up in a large family and have always been surrounded by noise and children. Family has always been important to me and I knew I wanted to provide children with a secure family home.”
I had heard that foster carers from all different ethnic backgrounds were needed. My children had grown up and it was the right time to do it. After making the initial call, I had had a visit from a social worker at our home and was told we could progress to an application within 2 weeks. My assessing social worker was fantastic. She explained everything fully. We didn’t find it intrusive, we understood why questions needed to be asked. The whole thing was open and honest. We were nervous about attending the Fostering Panel, but it was absolutely fine. The recruitment team had explained what would happen and had helped us think about questions we may be asked.
The best thing about fostering is seeing the children grow in confidence. Some of my children have been so anxious and tearful when they first came to live with us, but with lots of patience, reassurance and kindness, you see them transform. It really makes me feel proud to know that I have made a difference.
The support I have received from my supervising social worker has been fantastic. Tower Hamlets also has a really great bunch of foster carers who support each other. During the challenges over the years, this support has been essential.
I really recommend others to think about fostering, it has to be right for you. For me and my family, it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.
Richard & Tony
Richard and Tony have been fostering for 6 years. During that time, they have cared for 11 teenagers. Both work full time on a shift basis and are able to plan their timetables around caring for children.
“We had a friend who was fostering for Tower Hamlets and told us all about it. We felt we could help children and be able to give something back.
“Fostering can be challenging, it is important to treat each child as an individual and modify your approach to suit their needs. The biggest challenge is settling them when they first arrive. You have to be patient and try to understand things from their perspective. The rewards are huge; when you receive a phone call or a letter in the post from a young person who has moved on, thanking you for what you have done, it makes it all worthwhile.
“The training on offer is brilliant. We undertook Diploma 3 in childcare which was really worthwhile.
“We joined the Foster Carers’ Association as we wanted to support other foster carers especially around the challenges that fostering can bring. We offer carers a confidential service that gives them independent support and advice. We run regular support groups and have a phone number which carers can use when they need us. We also organise exciting trips for carers and their foster kids such as trips to the theatre or the seaside”.
Veronica is a single carer with 2 grown up children and 3 grandchildren. She has cared for teenagers for the last 7 years and also runs her own soft furnishings business.
“I started thinking about what else I could do 7 years ago. Running my business was ok but I wanted to do something for me and also to make a difference. I saw a fostering ad on TV and thought I could do that. I approached a few agencies but Tower Hamlets were the quickest to reply.
Looking after teenagers is challenging, but I get lots of support from my supervising social worker. We work well together. The training really helps your skills in dealing with behaviour and gives you practical advice. You also get 2 weeks paid holiday a year.
You need to be able to support kids but you need support yourself. Having a good network around you is really important. I am part of a close family and my daughter, sister and niece all offer me valuable help.
Fostering is hard work and challenging but the rewards are fantastic. It’s really lovely when a grown up foster child comes back to visit you or buys you a gift.
Pauline and her husband George have been fostering for Tower Hamlets for 12 years. They have looked after 22 children during this time aged from 15 months to 15 years. Pauline has been in care herself and has experience of living in a children’s home. This contributed to her decision to become a foster carer as well as her passion for caring for children.
“We come from a big family and have 5 children and 6 grandchildren between us. Family has always been important to us. My experience of being in a children’s home was not positive and I felt that offering children a loving and stable family home would be better. At first I thought that coming from a broken family may count against me, that I’d come from a troubled life, and that they might think – how can I educate these children when I couldn’t educate myself? But this wasn’t the case.
“Our supervising social worker gives a lot of support, and if there are any concerns at all, we know we can just get on the phone and get advice. They also make sure you have all the equipment you need for the children – and an allowance.
“The biggest challenge of fostering is getting the child to trust you when you first meet them. You need to think about how frightening it must be for them being in a new environment. We offer them loads of reassurance and are patient. The biggest reward is when that child then tells you they love you or asks for a hug. You know then that you are getting it right and that you are making a difference.
“As well as fostering, I also volunteer at a local children’s adventure park. I really enjoy being with children. They keep me young at heart and I will continue to foster for as long as I can.
Fostering has changed my life for the better but it is not a decision to be taken lightly. If you are really passionate about children, do it!
Gertrude has been fostering for 18 years. During this time, she has cared for 25 children, 9 of these have been children with disabilities. Over the years, Gertrude has cared for children affected by autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and complex medical needs.
“I first gained experience of caring for children with disabilities by working in a special school. I could see that these children were just ordinary people who needed a bit more support. When I started fostering, it felt like a natural progression to care for children with disabilities. I really enjoy it, every child is different and it is interesting learning how best to help and care for them. I get to learn new things all the time such as how to change feeding tubes to understanding more about the medical background of conditions. I find local community nurses and GPs really supportive and are on hand lots to help me when I need it. I am not left on my own to cope, I also get lots of support from my supervising social worker who has also got lots of experience working with children with disabilities. I also get weekly respite which means my foster child is cared by someone else so I have time to myself. Caring for these children is definitely a challenge, especially when they are not well, but when you see the smiles and excitement on their face when they see you, it really makes it so worthwhile. I have been told that I don’t give up on my foster children and to hear that makes me feel so happy and proud. I just want to see these children happy and reaching their potential.”