Kate's Story: My Tough Beginnings Have Become My Fostering Superpower!
06 February 2024
06 February 2024
Kate, 40 and her husband Dave, 43, have been the foster carers for Mia since she was 15. Soon Mia will be 18, and will remain with the family as a 'staying put' placement.
Kate is warm, friendly and bright - a perfect example that difficult beginnings can still translate to a successful life. Together with her husband Dave, she has created a full and happy household.
Along with Mia, Kate and Dave have 3 birth children: Rowan aged 16, Louise aged 13, and Tom aged 23. The couple are currently building an extension to enable another young person to join them.
Some names have been changed to protect privacy.
06 February 2024
Kate: I’ve always liked caring for people. I first had a job as a support worker and eventually, I became a manager for a care home for people with disabilities. I managed around 40 service users alongside 40 staff. My responsibilities were extensive, and I often had to work weekends. After 8 years or so, I began to consider if I could arrange my lifestyle in a way that would allow me to spend more time with my family.
A work colleague mentioned Blue Sky, and so I gave them a call. It’s come naturally to me, as it’s another way to care for people.
Kate: My parents split when I was young. By the time I was a teenager they had both left with new partners, leaving my younger sister and me behind. I was just a teenager studying for my GCSEs, but because my elder sister lived close by it was deemed that I was responsible enough to look after myself. At the time I remember thinking ‘Well, this could be amazing!’ But of course, as a girl, you don’t know what’s involved.
I ended up in a flat, working a Saturday job in a chippy whilst studying for my GCSEs. My boyfriend at the time worked and got a bit of money in, and my mum left me her child benefit cheques, which I cashed in every week. Unthinkable that something like that would be allowed to happen now, but it was a different time! My younger sister moved in with me. She was 13, I was 15 and my boyfriend was 18. By the time I was 16 I was pregnant, and by 17 I had given birth to my son Tom.
To be honest, having my son at that time saved my life. It gave me purpose. I went through the pregnancy on my own, but still, having my son was the best thing ever. I struggled through and I made it work. It has only been in the last few years - during my fostering assessment actually - when someone said, ‘How was it as a teenage mum?’ that I could view it from an outside perspective. At the time I felt I was mature, and I never doubted that I couldn’t have my son. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have got pregnant at that age if I’d had parental guidance around me, but it just happened the way it did.
Kate: You don’t realise how rewarding fostering is until you do it. The assessment process is a long thorough process - but it’s not like you must be perfect! I talked about my background and how I hadn't been a perfect teenager. Bringing it back up I got upset and I thought, ‘Oh god, is that going to go against me? Will they think I’m emotionally unstable?’ But no, I was just being normal!
Being open and honest shows you are human. It’s ok to have trauma or instability in your past - even as an adult. The point is that you can use it to your benefit. You don’t have to be a perfect example of a human to get through assessment! For me, I use my difficult past as a power to help me with children.
I’ve put the training I’ve received with Blue Sky into practice to help the young people I look after. When I hear a child talked about as difficult, troubled, or hard work – that’s when I feel a call to help. My previous experiences can be a powerful tool. I can pick apart behaviours and find the root cause partly from having spent so much time in self-reflection. In fact, the process of going to panel, through assessment, and later the training with Blue Sky, helped my brain to rationalise and process what had happened to me and how to apply it positively.
Kate: Mia went into care with her brother when she was aged 11. After lots of bridging placements, Mia’s brother went into residential care and Mia was placed with a foster family at Blue Sky. That was her longest placement before she came to us, but the boundaries and parenting style still weren’t quite right for her.
We joined Blue Sky in 2021 and were offered a respite week placement with Mia. And quite simply, we fell in love with her. When she was due to return to her placement, Mia and I sat in the car and cried, because we both knew it was the perfect match. Her placement still wasn't really working, so we offered to have Mia - and that was it. She joined our family.
Kate: Our youngest Louise was 10 when Mia joined the household. As a little girl, Louise was quite worried and shy. We had initially planned for someone younger than Louise to join us so that she would feel more in control of the situation.
Well, it turned out that having Mia come in - who was 14, nearly 15 at the time – gave Louise someone to look up to. She had to transition from primary school to secondary school and having Mia in the house helped her to do that because it gave her confidence.
They are absolute besties. Louise is closer to Mia than she is to her brother! Mia is currently on an apprenticeship, so she’s earning money. She took Louise out the other day and bought her a hot dog; they went for bubble tea and then to the cinema. They went to Primark and bought Jammies. She really spoils Louise! They are just so close.
So yeah, it has helped Louise. It’s given her confidence and somebody to do stuff with. My middle child, Rohan, he’s just not bothered. He was aged 12, nearly 13 when Mia moved in. He enjoys winding both girls up, but as a teenage boy, he has his mancave and just gets on with his own thing! My eldest is 23 and has now moved out - but he loves us all as we love him!
Kate: Only what we would deem as normal teenage behaviours! As I haven’t come from a shiny background, I still remember what it was like to be a teenager and to be misunderstood. She has had upsets: once, after her Saturday job, she didn’t come home. She had turned off the location on her phone and went off to meet a friend instead of coming home as she was supposed to. But I did ‘find my phone’, jumped into my car, and picked her up and took her back home.
The next day we explained: “We do this because we care for you. We’re not doing it because we want to make your life hard. We want to make sure you’re safe, and at this age this is appropriate.” It was about making the boundaries appropriate for her and not making a massive deal out of things. Teenagers do a lot of things... I was a nightmare as a teenager! Nowadays Mia will say ‘Oh! I was a nightmare!’ but I say, ‘No, you were just a teenager!’.
If you can be a loving family base for them to fall back on, and be there for them, you can help them and mould them. Even if they do wrong, that’s what you need to do.
Kate: The arrangement is slightly different; she’ll have some more freedom. A PA will be provided to help her transition to adulthood, and she’ll get a bit of funding. We couldn’t find suitable accommodation in the immediate, so for now she’ll stay with us. We’ll help her to move when the time is right.
The most exciting thing is that we are thinking of fostering another young person and Mia is now part of our family during the decision-making process. Her life has changed from being the foster child to being the child – I should say adult! – in the family that’s going to foster. Mia even sees herself potentially fostering in the future. That’s her mindset.
Kate: The most surprising thing… all of a sudden, you’ve changed your life, and you have someone coming in monthly to supervise you. Well, it’s surprisingly normal! It doesn’t impact. What massively helps is that Blue Sky match the Supervising Social Workers to your household. With our social worker, you can just be yourself – she gets it. She gets that we are not a perfect shiny household. We’re just normal. And she fits in - she gets it. Even when she has chats with the kids it’s normal. None of our kids feel put out. Having someone come over every month could be quite intrusive, but it feels normal not just to us but the kids. I always said that if it affects our children in any negative aspect then we’ll stop, but it doesn’t, and that has been a surprising thing to me.
Kate: Of course! When she first came to us, she would push us: ‘How are they going to react to that?’. But she realised we weren’t going to react to it, we were just going to get on. Once she understood we were there for the right reasons, she relaxed.
Her boyfriend had dropped her home after her business admin apprenticeship yesterday and she walked in with a bunch of flowers. I was like, ‘Aw! Your boyfriend’s got you flowers!’. She was like, ‘No, they’re for you.’ I was touched and asked why. ‘Just because’ she said. It was just beautiful.
The change in her? She’s mature. She’s responsible. She’s got a job. She’s fun. She’s got a boyfriend. She’s earning money and she’s having a lovely life. She’s beautiful, she’s amazing, and she fits into our household so well. One day she’ll move out but she’s going to be in our lives forever. She’s got her mum; her mum lives locally and she still sees her. But she sees me as her half-mum. We’re going to be together forever, and I love her to bits.